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.
"And the youth, looking upon him (Jesus), loved him and beseeched that he might remain with him. And going out of the tomb, they went into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days, Jesus instructed him and, at evening, the youth came to him wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God".
Jesus was gay!
Ok people, Don got what he wanted. He's happy out of the closet, he can smooch with his male companion in public in front of curious young boys who are on the verge of being gay. He can marry a man and make passionate love to him all night. Even typing this is grossing me out!
It should gross you out to be so awful to other people.
Sorry honey, I'm not going to sugar coat it for you. It is what it is.
"curious young boys who are on the verge of being gay"
Right, so you're still in denial that people are born gay. You still think it's a choice, and that seeing other gay people will cause them to make the choice. You aren't fooling anybody dude. You're welcome to come out of that closet any time.
Mike, now why would I do such a thing and ruin my life? You may be born that way but you still have the choice to live that way! Alot of these boys that turn that way don't have many males around either.
Then why are you typing it, you f(ckwit? Your teachers are waiting for you, brainless. Get your azz off the chair and go to school. You're late.
Tom are you ashame of it after seeing it in words? LOL Be Gay and Be Happy!
Dear Don Lemon, I heard your interview on NPR. You are so full of yourself!! You REALLY think that people care about anchors' personal lives? That we want to know your 24/7 life?? LOL!!! No one cares if Murrow was married. No one cares if Rather was married. Was he? Who knows? All we want from you is news. Get over yourself. You ain't that famous, dude.
And to the other anchors in CNN: If you are straight or not, we really (really) don't care. Only Anderson gets the 24/7 fame you are obviously craving.
I agree, why the need to post this article trying to turn all those who have faith in God to change them from believing? Don needs to be fired for this!
"I agree, why the need to post this article trying to turn all those who have faith in God to change them from believing? Don needs to be fired for this!"
Ha, that's a good one. You must have missed that tiny section of the article in which Don mentioned that he's a Christian too. Silly you.
Being a Christian means nothing unless you have given your life to Jesus Christ and you repent for your sins. All Christians won't see the Kingdom of Heaven because they think they can have it both ways, you have to conquere sin to enter the kingdom of heaven, and you have to have good works.
Folks, God(s) do not exist. They are mythology.
If only stupidity like that of 1word, Adelina, CW, and HS didn't exist. Why, oh why is there no cure for that? Oh, wait. There is. It's called "education".
o All "Abrahamics" believe that their god created all of us and of course that includes the g-ay members of the human race. Also, those who have studied ho-mo-se-xuality have determined that there is no choice involved therefore ga-ys are ga-y because god made them that way.
o The Royal College of Psy-chiatrists stated in 2007:
“ Despite almost a century of psy-choanalytic and psy-chological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heteros-exual or hom-ose-xual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of ge-netic factors and the early ut-erine environment. Se-xual orientation is therefore not a choice. "
"Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fe-tal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender ident–ity or s-exual orientation."[8
Of course, those g-ays who belong to Abrahamic religions abide by the rules of no adu-ltery or for-nication allowed.
And because of basic biology differences and Abrahamic and other religious traditions said mon-ogamous ventures should always be called same-s-ex unions not same-s-ex marriages.
being gay in Africa is totally unacceptable to us. I will never stop being anti-gay. Being gay is evil and evil must be punished. simple and short
I used to be a bigot too as I was steeped in it growing up but I grew beyond it while still in my twenties. Hope you can too.
Oh stop using the word bigot! I hate criminals, am I a bigot?
I called myself a bigot too. When you discriminate against a person only because they seem "different" to you, then that is bigotry.
There is no basis for being anti-gay as gay people are the same as straight people except that they are attracted to same gender while the majority of us are attracted to opposite gender.
And there is no choice in it. Think back and you'll know this is true whether gay or straight. People don't CHOOSE which gender they are attracted to. It is very obviously pre-wired.
Why? Seems like hatred to me. Have you noticed that the countries that are less accepting of gay and women's rights are also the mist violent and repressive? That is not the work of God and Jesus. That is the work of any men. Please keep in mind that it wasn't long ago that in America people were separated by the color of their skin. Where did Jesus talk about that?
I don't condone it, but I don't wish them harm. That's the Christian in me, I believe all people can change if they seek God. You have to get down on your knees and give you life to Christ and repent, that's the only way you can be saved! Not repenting to do it again, TRY YOUR HARDEST NOT TO SIN!
You need to read the Bible to know what you are praying for. Great pastors that teach the Bible, book by book, scripture by scripture are Arnold and Dennis Murray at Shepherd's Chapel. They are on M-F. Look for your areas listings. If not, you can listen to them at shepherdschapel.com.
The Bible is a tool engineered by man for controlling purposes. To authenticate it, the religious say that versus came by the Holy Spirit and was written down for all. So in other words, whoever was in charge that week decided what God said...? I believe in God or a Higher Being, but I don't believe in the symbolic bible. God love us all, no matter who we love. It doesn't make sense to say that a good person would be punished just because they did not follow words written in a book wrote by man! You want to better this country? Well enlighten and better yourself and live your life well.
LOL, you can't believe that can you. Explain how man was made a living soul. Explain where woman came from. What came first the Man or the Egg?
Good. A fellow free thinker!
@1word: Please provide verifiable evidence to support your claim that a "soul" exists. Scientific theory supported by verifiable evidence, such as evolution, does not require "belief". Once tested and verified, the evidence proves the theory as factual which makes your "belief" irrelevant if it does not have evidencial support.
Science has done a good job explaining each one of those things in a way that does not involve any higher power. I don't plan on explaining any of them here, as faith trumps rationale in the human mind, however those questions have been answered time and time again.
It's the Word of God, not the word of man. You can't believe in God and deny his Word. Doesn't work like that. Jesus said You are either for me or against me. Can't straddle the fence on this one.
@1word I was once told "if its not in the Bible then it is not so" Tell me this, if that is true, why aren't dinosaurs mention in the bible? Or are you one of those that says that the earth isn't as old as the scientific world has proven. And there is scientific evidence of evolution. And again the bible was written by man, and who said it was...Man. So stop judging and learn to love your neighbor no matter who he/she is.
@Jimi I respect your opinion, but you can not tell me what I can believe in. So you are saying if I was Jewish and my doctorine says that Jesus is not God's Son but was only a man and a prophet that they are wrong too. hummm I think you need re-think that one. I can be just as spiritual as you and I feel that no matter what you believe in; you as a human being do not have the right to judge or hate for any reason.
My first question is how can a person passed the age of 10 years old remembe anything about being 5 years old. I really do believe that you what people to believe that at the age of 4 or 5, when know who or what we will become. So that story is lie that helps you get through your life.
I don't know about you, but I vividly remember many things from when I was two and three.
You accuse someone of lying because you can't remember being five years old? Mike, I'm 43 and I very well remember being five. I even have disjointed memories of my mother giving me a bath in the kitchen sink. I remember my grandmother's funeral when I was four; I remember my broken arm when I was five; I remember my first day of school; I remember lots of things before age ten. Gay people are born gay and gay people obvioulsy have better memories than you.
Anyone that says they can remember something from the age of 2 or 3 is a liar. I can only remember things from 7 years old, because some bad things happen to me then. No I wasn't molested. LOL. I almost died.
I also remember that age. Even as a 5 yr old girl, I really enjoyed staring at the boys in teen magazines so like the article, I can recognize being straight all along. I watched my own son, age 3, who is now a straight adult, helping me do laundry and refusing to touch his dad's underwear.
So it is not difficult at all to believe these stories from people who are gay. Most of us when we look back at ourselves or others for evidence of gay or straight – it is present from a very early age.
Really? You don't remember the things that were so important to you as a child that made you who you are today? Perhaps you were just a really carefree child. I can't say I remember every day, but I can definitely remember firsts like riding a bike or flying on a plane...
Some people do. I have memories from when I was 3, they're blury, but I know it happened, and I was 3. I remember going to DisneyWorld at 4 and that my uncle lost his hat in one of the rides, I was sitting right behind him and his hat flew past me. Some people do remember being 5, 4 or even 3 past the age of 10.
Are you speaking on behalf of everyone passed the age of 10 when you ASSUME that someone cannot remember being 5 years old?
Wow, you must have a really lousy memory. Sucks to be you.
For all of those "Christians" out there saying being gay is a choice, I am dying to read your scientific backing to this. And please, please, for the love of God, don't point to the Bible. Snooze. After all, what if you are an agnostic like me, or better yet, a Muslim, let's say, who follows the Koran? You mean we're all going to hell, right? I saw that one coming. I'll save you a front row seat.
What really separates you people from the Taliban, or Hitler? Your philosophies are more or less the same with a different flavored sugar-coating. "I know better, hate hate hate, I know better, I can judge you, I am more special than the rest of you, follow me because I say so, I have an all-powerful being on my side, hate hate hate... etc."
One of my dearest friends is gay and it would be a total shame if I missed his great friendship because I couldn't stop judging him and insisting that all he needs to do XYZ and voila! He's now a straight, God loving, Christian (I'm sure, the "Christians" here would also expect him to convert from his religion as well, it just wouldn't be complete).
Let's put it this way– if heaven if filled with loads of sanctimonious, arrogant, know-it-all Bible-thumpers who have deluded themselves into thinking that only they can correctly interpret a 2,000 year old book better than anyone else, I'll take my chances in hell 🙂
I'll explain exactly why its a choice and nothing more and I will do so without political, biblical or moral reference. Tell me ANY species that Mother Nature has instilled in them a self-defeating gene? If being gay is in-born then that is exactly what that gene would be, self-defeating. For any species their primary purpose is procreation, therefore, it goes against all genetic laws to instill a self-defeating gene. Listen, to each their own, i don't care what you do with your life just don't force your choice onto a majority!
nyresident, Jesus told us to stay humble for a reason. The human mind is very powerful. The mind can convince you of anything. But, rest assure, Jesus didn't send us to earth to go solo. He wrote us a letter explaining how to be the best that He wants us to be. He explains how to keep the sins of pride, lust behind us so they don't hamper us through life.
Keep laughing and staying smug. You know nothing.
Good rant! I'll see you there!
"Tell me ANY species that Mother Nature has instilled in them a self-defeating gene?"
This was taken from National Geographic
"Roy and Silo, two male chinstrap penguins at New York's Central Park Zoo have been inseparable for six years now. They display classic pair-bonding behavior—entwining of necks, mutual preening, flipper flapping, and the rest. They also have s-ex, while ignoring potential female mates."
It is natural and it is genetic, it is not a choice. Educated yourself.
"i don't care what you do with your life just don't force your choice onto a majority!"
No one is forcing the majority, all that is asked is for equal rights and freedoms that you already possess.
I agree with you sin is sin and all sin will be judged. No one should condemen anyone because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, Christian or otherwise. We are saved by Grace from Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and He is the only way into Heaven. There will be no chances in Hell for anyone only weeping and nashing of teeth, eternal torment is the only thing that waits in Hell for those who deny Jesus. Don't take any chances with your soul. Get to know and accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour before you take your last breath. Tomorrow is not promised. God Bless.
Antiretroviral drugs are expensive($1400 per month), have serious side effects
and missing doses creates multi-drug resistant HIV strains with poor
prognosis that can be passed on to others.
so what are you saying – over and over – we get it – you think you have a right to discriminate – well you don't, but we all know you will armed with your "facts" and bible and prejudices which would not change regardless of what anyone said to you.
From the time of entering HIV medical care using antiretroviral drugs the life
expectancy is 24 years with an average per person lifetime medical cost of
You were not born "Gay", it would go against everything that God is and he is anever changing God, but a forgiving God....
Yes, because you apparently know something about God that others don't? I highly doubt you have any insider information on the matter. So do as your God would suggest you do and stop spreading hate and learn to love.
Good for you Don Lemmon!
The bible says alot of things...that "WE ALL" don't follow. Who are "WE" to judge? He has a choice and so do "WE". Passing judgement is a "SIN." O, "WE" righteous folk exclude that when it is for "US." Amen
Condemnation is the sin. Calling sin a sin is not.
Ah, the old argument continues. On one side, if you don't believe and subject yourself to Jesus'/God's will then you will forever burn in hell but you still have a chance to be saved because Jesus loves you. On the other side, people need to live their lives regardless of who they choose to love. Personally, I'm straight; but I'd be willing to walk with any gay woman or man to stand up for their rights and freedoms. I'm glad he said what he did about the Bible because let's face it, some take it more literally than others. What has this accomplished? More bloodshed, hate, and tyranny than words can ever express because of an ancient collection of philosophy. Let's not forget how an interpretation of the Bible has caused a small faction to picket military members' funerals and inflict more pain and suffering on an innocent family because the military supports gay soldiers now.
People are going to live their lives no matter how much you intend to "pray for them" or inform them that their choices will "make them burn in hell forever". We should try to see people for who they are and what they intend to contribute to society, not who they choose to spend their personal time with.
Long story short, religious folks can go on about your business because at the end of the day he and everyone else who is gay will go on about their business.
Very moving piece; well done. Mr. Lemon does a terrific job on CNN, as well. I hope this gets read widely.
being gay is not a sickness. It is a choice a person makes. We make choices everyday, and most of them are good and some not so good. A man leaves the natural use of the woman and burns in his lust one towards another. God did not say for us to condemn, but to rather share the truth about our lives and what we do with them. We need to choose between what is moral and what is immoral. Just because we live in a different generation, does not give us a license to commit wrong. We now give sin a name, ie: sickness, bigotry, and so on. God has not changed, He is the same today, yesterday, and forever, therefore sin is sin no matter what name we put on it. Read your Bible for the answers, and remember, whether you believe what God says or not, does not change anything. The fool has said in is heart there is no God.
You are simply and completely absolutely wrong. Obviously you know nothing about human se-xuality, and have never taken a course about it, or even biology, and maybe even theology, at the college level.
There are literally mountains of clinical evidence that show s-e-xual orientation is not a choice. The persistent refusal of people like you to recognize the proven scientific facts here makes one wonder why your brain requires you to turn away from this threat to your parochial world view.
If the human experience of se-xuality involves choice, then, as so many others have asked here, how old were you when you chose your orientation ? It also implies, in your assertion that se-xuality is a choice, that in making yours, YOU could have gone either way. Moral theology teaches that morality does involve choice, and since your premise is flawed, completely, your conclusion is erroneous.
Even if the proclivity is not chosen the behavior is. Isn't acting morally frequently acting against our "natural" dispositions? Is a pedophile justified in acting consistently with his natural inclinations?
The KJV of the Bible was written over 400 years ago and took seven years to write. Yes, it is a great book. Is it the word of God? Seven years to write by the hand of man who is flawed according to the Bible. If you really believe in the Devil, then how do you know that he did not influence those men who transcribed older versions by suggesting the very issues which are dividing us today. Isn't that missing of the Devil? While the mission of Jesus is to bring us together. Where does Jesus say that gays are doomed to a life in Hell? Careful, you might be following the wrong leader.
Are you acting naturally when you make love to your wife ? What "natural" dispositions are YOU talking about ? The reductio ad absurdam argument is invalid, as everyone knows. This has NOTHING to do with pedophilia.
The premise of the "natural" argument is also flawed, as you would know if you took that same biology course. Same s-ex behaviors are observed across the spectrum of every specie on the face of the planet, birds, fish, mammals, primates, insects, etc., etc. It's as "normal" and "natural" as breathing.
This behavior was seen as a threat in ancient cultures, (and thus "forbidden"),which were based on a need for reproductive success, and clear cut property rights, both of which are no longer needed by societies, which have developed more than enough success in these areas, as the human race advances beyond those primitive stages.
If I follow word for word the thoughts of another man, no matter how wise that man, I limit myself. I stop creating. I live in a box that prevents me from seeing anything beyond my self-imposed walls. My imagination dies.
How can that be joyful?
Nice Job Don Lemon. First thing I did as an out gay Christian man was to learn to ignore all these hateful nasty Christians who don't get it. Read some of the comments here – so many awful people who are too busy with their campaign of hate and with no time to love.
How many Gay People Must God Create before all these idiots realize we are here for a reason, we are not and DO NOT want to change, and we will win this battle in the long run thanks to America's youth.
You ve made a difference already Don, thanks for coming on our!
Ok, An outed gay man is a Christian? Let's see, the definition of Christian is Christ like. So if you continue to wallow in your sinful ways, you are not Christ like!!! Do you people even READ the Bible????? It's pretty simple! Read the first chapter of Romans and then attempt to use that argument!