May 22nd, 2011
01:00 AM ET
My Faith: How I learned to stop 'praying away the gay'
Editor's Note: Don Lemon is a CNN anchor and author of Transparent, a memoir .
By Don Lemon, CNN
"School day, time to get up, sleepy head. School day."
Although she's been gone since 1998, my grandmother's words ring in my head just about every morning of my life. That's how MaMe, as I called her, got me out of bed and off to my Catholic school when I was growing up and in her care.
But before I shuffled my way to the bathroom to begin my morning routine, I had to hit the floor on my knees to pray, just as I had the night before.
It was usually The Lord's Prayer ("Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name...") followed by asking God to watch and guide me through my day until I returned to the safety of my home that evening.
But MaMe (pronounced MAH-me) didn't know that at a very early age her favorite grandson had begun to pray, silently, that God would change him from being different, from having crushes on boys, from being more curious about boys than girls.
By age four or five, I was too young to sexualize my infatuations but I knew that everyone else, including my family and friends, would think it was wrong.
Perhaps it was the conversations I overheard from adults around my hometown of Port Allen, Louisiana, who'd mimic gay people, calling them "funny" or "sissy" or "fagots."
Perhaps it was Sunday mornings at our Baptist church, where preachers taught that liking someone of the same sex was a direct and swift path to hell. And that if that person would just turn to the Lord and confess his sin, then God would change him back into the person He wanted him to be - a person who only had crushes on the opposite sex.
All of which meant that, from a very early age, I began to think I was dirty and that I was going to hell. Can you imagine what that feels like for a kid who was just learning to read and perform basic arithmetic? It was awful.
And talk about guilt - I was a Baptist attending Catholic school!
I prayed the silent prayer for God to change me every chance I got until I started attending college in New York. That's when common sense began to take hold and I realized that no amount of prayer would change me into something that wasn't natural to me.
With my religious upbringing, I'd had the opportunity to study religious doctrine. But I learned from different perspectives, from Catholic Mass on Fridays to Baptist services on Sundays to vacation Bible school in the summer to Bible study with a Jehovah's Witness as a teenager.
As I got older I began to realize that all these people and institutions interpreted the Bible somewhat differently. I had a sort of epiphany: the Bible was about the lessons you learned, not about the events or words.
When I became old enough, intelligent enough and logical enough to discern the difference between metaphor and reality, everything changed. I realized that Jonah living in the belly of a whale was a parable written in the same vein as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. saying that he had "been to the mountaintop."
Neither Jonah nor King had actually been to those places. They were metaphors for lessons for those of us who cared to absorb them.
So many of us, especially in the black community and in churches, tend to think that religious teachings happened word for word as they were written in Scripture. I think that's naïve, even dangerous.
That type of thinking - or non-thinking - keeps many religious people enslaved to beliefs that they haven't truly stepped back from and examined.
That type of thinking causes people who are otherwise good to shun and ostracize young gay people.
It causes people to want to control and change people who aren't like them. And who wants to be like someone else?
Imagine if we had allowed Christian doctrines and teachings that supported slavery, segregation and the subjugation of women to pervade our society all the way up until the current moment. What kind of world would that be?
Instead, we got on our knees, just as I did as a little boy, and prayed that slavery, segregation and the subjugation of women would end. In the United States, at least, those prayers have largely been realized.
I'm no longer the member of any church but I do believe in a higher power.
It's time for us, especially black people, to stop trying to pray the gay away and to get on our knees and start praying that the discrimination of gay people ends.
What we're doing to our young gay people now is child abuse. It's plain old bigotry and hatred. And if African-Americans don't know what that feels like in America, I don't know who does.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Don Lemon.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
I have a good therapist. DR. JESUS. DO YOU WANT TO SEE HIM. TRY ROMANS 10:9
actually yes. I would like to see him. I literally looked in that place you mentioned, but I did not find him. Perhaps an address or phone number?
I respect your beliefs 100%. But seriously you sound like one of those old ladies that gets on TV and has fake seizures and claims that jesus is healing their cancer. Tone it down a notch. You don't have to post in all caps and make it seem like you're yelling at everyone.
are you female geraldine? Might I refer you to my gynecologist: 1 timothy 2:12
cause it sounds like you're trying to teach us something.
Geraldine, you embarrass me. Sometimes I think people literally get on here and post stupid things to make Christians look bad. Posts like these make me cringe.
All of you people need to wake up! This man clearly made a choice to be outcast and ostracized for the rest of his life. All he has to do is CHOOSE to be attracted to women instead, but he takes the easy way out and decides to alienate himself from his loving and christian family and friends who could have helped him make a different choice! It would have been so easy if he really wanted to be straight! So convenient that he doesn't want to be a part of a religion that condemns him to hell!
LOL Yes, that's exactly what his 5-year-old self did.
THE BIBLE SAYS WHEN YOU SUPPORT IMMORAL BEHAVIORS OR SIN YOU ARE JUST AS GULITY. ROMANS 1:24-32
32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
AMPLIFIED BIBLE VERSION
And where does it say that being gay is an immoral behavior?
Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. -Leviticus 18:22
Leviticus is Mosaic Law, not the New Covenant.
NO ONE HATES YOU. THESE DESIRES THAT YOU HAVE FOR OTHER MEN CAN BE CONTROLLED. IF YOU WANT TO THEM TO BE. JUST LIKE YOU CAN CONTROL YOUR SELF NOT TO LIE MURDER OR STEAL. YOU MAKE A CHOICE .
If a male dog jumps on the back of another male dog, is that dog gay? Does it matter to the dog? Should the dog control himself?
I would like to put some of these haters in my shoes for a day. Let them see what the hate that they spew out of their mouths feels like to those of us on the receiving end (no pun intended). Let them see what it feels like to wake up every day and to know that there are millions of people out there who hate them for no reason that they can control. Let them be challenged in their homes, schools, churches and jobs, let them be kicked out of their homes, schools, churches and fired from their jobs. Let them see themselves portrayed by the media as sick perverts, let them read the posts on this thread, most of which make no sense.
I am 32 years old. I support myself, I am a medical professional that works with and saves childrens lives on a daily basis in one of the Nations top hospitals. I pay my taxes, I donate money and clothing to the poor, I go to church, I bleed the same color blood that you do. Please tell me where my "lifestyle" is so wrong?
You are worthy of your successes. Your worth has nothing to do with anyone else. Pat yourself on the back and get on with it. I wish you peace.
You sound like an exceptional human-being. No doubt, sounds like you do as much right as you can. But to me, all those people giving out the hate are completely wrong and so is being gay. I have my opinion that i feel very strongly about and usually i keep it to myself unless asked. Of course this is a place of discussion so i give it freely. Honestly, i think all the controversy should just quit and leave things as they are and quit making such a big deal out of it.
Your lifestyle is wrong because you are not here in Atlanta, GA having a beer with me. Let's be friends!
forgiving others their trespasses makes it easier to forgive ourselves.
If you look carefully at everything that you've written, you may find that you are not so much disagreeing with others as you are challenging your own beliefs.
Just remember, truth doesn't need to be defended, but words and rules from the past do, though.
Look around you, wherever you are, is there anything happening that wouldn't happen if Don Lemon had really chosen to be gay? Truth is all around you. Everything is one. Everything goes together, whether you call it good or bad, it is. Maybe you should let it be.
DON LEMON IS A FINE HUMAN BEING. WE ALL ARE GOD'S CHILDREN. HOWEVER, WE ALL HAVE AN UNSEEN ENEMY THAT IS SEEKING TO KILL, STEAL, AND DESTROY EVERY SOUL TO BE LOST. HE DONT CARE IF WE ARE MURDERS, KILLERS, GAY, LIARS, ADULTERS, ENVIOUS, NO MATTER WHAT SIN THE DEVIL TRAPS US WITH. HE JUST DOES NOT WANT US TO OVER COME IT. NOW, HE MAY NOT GET ME TO BECOME GAY, BUT HE MAY TRY TO GET ME TO KILL, STEAL, LIE, COMMIT ADULTERY ETC. IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT SIN APPEALS THE MOST TO ME OR FEELS GOOD THE MOST TO ME HE JUST WANTS ME TO DO IT AGAINST THE WILL AND NATURE OF GOD. SO ALL OF US ARE A TARGET. WHAT WE HAVE TO DO WHEN HE BRINGS SINFUL DESIRES AND THOUGHTS TO OUR MIND IS TO SUBMIT IT TO GOD, CONTINUE TO RESIST THE THOUGHTS AND THEN THE BIBLE TELLS US THAT THE DEVIL WILL GIVE UP AND FLEE FROM US. BUT WE MUST RESIST THE SINFUL DESIRES. NOT GIVE IN TO THEM. BUT IF WE CONTINUE TO THINK ABOUT THEM THE MORE THEY ENTER INTO OUR MIND, FEELS GOOD TO US AND THEN WE ACT ON THEM AND THEN WE ARE TRAPPED. JAMES 4:7
You need mental therapy
Keep it simple. Imagine peace. One more time.
Well spoken Geraldine and so true.
That's all fine and well, but being gay is not in the same category as victimizing other people by murdering, lying, hurting, stealing, etc. There's not even a ten commandment telling people not to be gay. And if you find me a verse of the Bible that says being gay is wrong, I'll just ask you if you follow the laws set down in Leviticus that explain how to have slaves or sacrifice goats or make good after raping women. You've got to have some common sense somewhere. I don't get on anyone's case for doing anything that doesn't victimize another person.
But did MaMe ever really know Jesus? Man made religion in it's many varieties of organizations is all man and isn't knowing or accepting Christ as your Savior. Gods word says in the last days people will have a form of Godliness but deny the power of God, they will have this idea of God but not know him.
Many shall come to him in the day of judgment and say look at all the great things I've done. Jesus will say, I never knew you!
When Jesus walked this earth he hated religion because it was corrupt and Godless and it's the same today. Jesus said that god dwells in our hearts not in buildings or mans idea of God. The true God and his son are there if you will invite him in. Jesus said knock and the door shall be open, seek and you shall find.
I dare you get on your knees and confess your sins to God and accept his son Jesus Christ into your life. If you really truly want it you will be amazed, it's like being blind then able to see! Serious!
DID YOU READ ROMANS 1: 24-32. YOU DIDNT TELL ME WHAT YOU THOUGHT. FORGIVE ME FOR WRITING IN ALL CAPS. ITS AN EYE PROBLEM NOT THAT I AM TRYING TO SCREAM MY POINTS TO ANYONE.
I did post it earlier. Here it is again:
"Paul is describing a community of people who have succ-umbed to idolatry. That's not my interpretation; that's what Paul tells the reader explicitly. These people had previously had hetero relations – ie. straight people – but when they idolized the body, they only cared about getting off. It's an admonition against lust, period, not against gay love. It's precisely in arrogantly thinking that such an admonition could not possibly apply to the reader of this epistle that made the next passage in 2:1 so necessary."
GOD ALSO LOVE AND DIED FOR TED BUNDY, AND JOHN WAYNE GAICY, I DON'T SEE ANYONE SUPPORTING THEM.
Are you comparing gays to serial killers? Wow. Just wow. Ur really that stupid?
Well, according to most Christians, God is all powerful, so he made a conscious decision to allow them to be serial killers. If it were me, I'd save all the cancer that kills innocent children for sicko's like them. But nah, God's too busy killing kids to worry about murderers.... Speaking of which, if God makes everyone the way they are, wasn't he the one who made them serial killers in the first place?
I have gone through many sins, hardships, been all the way down in the black hole, suffered much depression, tragedies, but never questioned God nor doubted him. I constantly prayed & asked God in Jesus Name to carry me when I can't carry myself, which he does. I don't know why babies die, suffer, are killed, why good people hurt or die and very sinful, hating, cruel people live. I guess it is not for me to know. I sin and am sorry for my sins and ask for forgiveness & for me to change. I hurt for and love even strangers. I think most things are just the cycle of life, even the most painful ones. The most pain I have ever suffered which will never truly go away was the suicide of my 17 year old grandson. I was dieing from this, but Jesus was still with me and pulled me out of it. The pain was lessen. I love my God & my Saviour and no one can take that from me. I have love ones that are gay, friends with some. According to scripture I am concerned for their souls. I am not judging them. I commited a terrible additive sin (not drug or alcohol) for many years and wanted to change and asked God to help me change and he did. I turn from what I wanted to do to what God wanted. God the Father & Jesus Our Saviour help us all. There is a Heaven and a hell.
I love you Don Lemon! You and Anderson Cooper have always been my favorite CNN anchors because of your compassion and commitment to truth that shines through in your work. Thanks for sharing your private story so that those kids who feel different as you did can have one more reason to believe "it does get better."
WHY IS IT WHEN PEOPLE SPEAK OUT ON THEIR OPINION THAT THEY ARE GAY. IT IS SO SWEET, BIRDS SINGING, AND WE ALL GO AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! THAT'S SO SWEET. BUT AS SOON AS YOU GIVE YOUR SIDE THEY ARE READY TO ATTACK.
Geraldine Who's attacking you?
I am a middle aged, straight, southern white man. You know you have already figured it out, you are a fine human being that if my son were gay I would be proud to have him bring you home to meet the family. You can be proud of who you are, what you have achieved and what you stand for. Don't let anyone tell you different. You don't need me to tell you that, but it makes me feel better. You are a good man sir!!!!!
Don Lemon is my hero... gentle, compassionate, deeply loving,. If we could re-people with world with Don Leomon clones, what a truly lovely world we would live in.
Is that what T.J. Holmes is?
Jesus said, "Beware the leaven of the Pharisees." The Pharisees were obsessed with religious observances, with appearing holy, following all the "rules." Only those who strictly adhered to the defined criterea were worthy of salvation. And the very notion that salvation might be available to anyone besides the Jews was utter heresy. But they were corrupt and selfish, white-washed tombs full of decay. We are saved by faith, not by works. The trend of salvation in the Bible has always been one of "enlarging the tent," to include more and more of those once thought "unclean." The Bible should NEVER be used to justify oppression. Whenever that happens, you know it's the leaven of the Pharisees at work. We are condemned under the Law, but saved by Grace. Amazing Grace!
I grew up believing that God loves all of his children whether straight or gay, he made them in his image. To hate people for being gay is to hate God.
Greetings from Omaha! 🙂
read the text we are not all His childrens we are all Creations and he creates Adan and Eve not "Adan and Steve". Plus God is a perfect God and He doesn't make mistakes. being gay is a condition that you choose dont blame God because you are in a wrong body because God's intention for us is to be a man or a woman, not gay
Illuminated Genius, Why does what someone else does bother you so much? I think you may be hiding from yourself. I think YOU may be praying away the gay. I think you hate yourself.
I'm not fully understanding your point of this article. you want people to stop praying the sin away and start praying for being to tolerate the sin?
Being gay is not a sin. But even if it were, not as bad a sin as being a gay hater.
sin is nonexistent. Its also foolish to believe in such a thing. It's also foolish for someone to be able to post such an article and then receive such recognition for it. Impulse is real. People have impulses to do all sorts of things, but that doesn't mean you should go with it. Some guy is sleeping with your girlfriend....you probably have an impulse to kill him...and maybe even her, but it's probably not a good idea to do it. People have impulses to steal things and again you shouldn't do it. Apparently people have impulses to do weird things with animals. You definitely shouldn't do that.
Seriously though i've probably even had impulses or wondered what it would be like to do something with another man and i never once acted on those impulses. People's minds wonder and impulses happen. Thats natural. Its called curiosity not gay. That doesn't mean you have to do it or that your were born to be gay. C'mon people you can't even naturally have children together. That should tell you something.
Congrats on having P.R.I.D.E.