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.
You know what? This is very simple, if you don't believe in God you will go to hell, simple as that. Believe what you want now, but just wait until you're in hell for all the eternity. Just wait
Christians are one tribr from the alledged "alledged holy land". Everything they believe is consistant with their own perceptions of the world. The world is not as simple as you want me to believe. You can go to hell for me.
"You know what? This is very simple, if you don't believe in God you will go to hell, simple as that. Believe what you want now, but just wait until you're in hell for all the eternity. Just wait"
You know what? This is very simple, if you don't believe in Allah you will go to hell, simple as that. Believe what you want now, but just wait until you're in hell for all the eternity. Just wait
You know what? This is very simple, if you don't believe in Zues you will go to hades, simple as that. Believe what you want now, but just wait until you're in hades for all the eternity. Just wait
You know what? This is very simple, if you don't believe in Ra you will go to the Netherworld, simple as that. Believe what you want now, but just wait until you're in The Netherworld for all the eternity. Just wait
see a pattern here? Did you pick the right God? There all equally as real as yours.
Addendum: Also be careful about thinking so much of the bible is metaphorical, the Jonah story says he was swallowed by "leviathon" which means a big fish not a whale. Scientists have discovered there is a fish that could have accomplished this and then vomit him up still alive. Wouldn't it be just like God to have such an entrance for Jonah to Ninevah who worshiped Fish! SO many of the bible stories are now being confirmed as fact by scientists and archaeologists.
"Addendum: Also be careful about thinking so much of the bible is metaphorical, the Jonah story says he was swallowed by "leviathon" which means a big fish not a whale. Scientists have discovered there is a fish that could have accomplished this and then vomit him up still alive. Wouldn't it be just like God to have such an entrance for Jonah to Ninevah who worshiped Fish! SO many of the bible stories are now being confirmed as fact by scientists and archaeologists."
The Jonah story was not created by Christians it was borrowed by previous relgions and mixed together with similar stories, Noah's ark was created the same way. To take it literal is to miss the point of the story, it's a parable, on Disobedience.
The more archaeologists dig into biblical times the more we found out much of the bible is fiction. Hardly any Bible story has been confirmed as fact by scientists and archaeologists that is a false statement.
Moses was only spoken of only in the bible and no where else. There is no shred of any evidence, no clothes, remains, pottery, nothing to show Moses or his people were ever in the desert for 40 years, nothing of there stay as slaves in Egypt, nothing at all just a parable story in the bible.
The Bible is mostly fiction filled with metaphorical and parable stories to help the reader live a good life not to be enforce as the law or taken as literal truth.
i loved what you had to say don, thank you very much.
You're experiences with the church are not confined to gay people. In the ancient world many tribes existed who had other beliefs and other traditions and other perceptions of the world. I do not believe in a higher power but I do believe in the natural world.
Unlike Christians I have no desire to turn others into an ideal enforced through Christianity. It's akin to expecting the bears to fly with eagles or the cariboo to swim with the dolphins........it's an expectation which doesn't exist in the natural world and it is the number one cause of mental illness in the human world.
Don, very nice and very brave. Thank you for this article.
Don I admire your article but you are incorrect about "stop praying away the gay". God created man for woman and woman for man. God did not create man for man and woman for woman. I pray that you really search yourself and find out what God really wants for you life and correct it
Cynthia – It amazes me how you (or anybody else) believe that they know "the mind of God." I have often wondered whether or not such arrogance is the "sin against the Holy Spirit" that is referred to in the Bible – the only unforgivable sin.
Oh Cynthia, if we could all be so wise as you (sarcastic tone). Learn to speak for yourself. Really look inside during a quiet time, and ask yourself: "am I being true to making the world a better place, or am I just blindly spreading hate disguised as religion and faith?" – it's so easy to spout off phrases that you've heard your whole life, just because you are afraid of change, afraid of another perspective; but it's much harder, yet more important, to learn and listen to what you believe is true, and good, and follow that.
Also, everyone will be open to gaining much more intelligence once they realize that the bible and many other religious texts were written by men; then translated and rewritten over and over again so many times throughout the years, decades and centuries that the entire book and it's ideals cannot be trusted or authentic. Which is why people like yourself can come along and spew hate disguised as religion and get away with it. It's vicious.
Sorry Cynthia, but "god" didn't create anyone because THERE IS NO GOD. Please stop telling other people what your "god" wants for them.
Cynthia I want you to do something. Before you spouting what is right, what is wrong and what God wants go grab your bible and look up MATHEW 7:1 "Judge not, that ye may not be judged"
You can also take a gander at :
1 CORINTHIANS 4:5
and JAMES 4:11
They all say the same thing. DON'T JUDGE PEOPLE.
"Don I admire your article but you are incorrect about "stop praying away the gay". God created man for woman and woman for man. God did not create man for man and woman for woman. I pray that you really search yourself and find out what God really wants for you life and correct it"
Scientific researchers specializing in human se-xuality have repeatedly shown that ho-mose-xuality is genetic and have shown genetic research using family and twin methodologies has produced consistent evidence that genes influence se-xual orientation and the survival of a human predisposition for ho-mose-xuality can be explained by se-xual orientation being a polygenetic trait that is influenced by a number of genes.
It's natural and it's not a choice.
Perhaps a place to start with this article is to listen. Hear what he is saying and trying to communicate. He is talking about his experience of being closeted at home and in the church. Take a deep breath and just sit with his message, not react to it. He has done a difficult task, writing his thoughts, feelings, experiences, beliefs with his name attached. The rest of us get to hide behind this blog if we want to, but he did not. Thanks for your courage, I will sit with your message and try to understand.
All well & good & all ND, unfortunately there are a lot of bullish, aggressively hateful, malicious, vendictive, so called gay people around in this society, at least, who are out to insult, assault, humiliate, intimidate, dominate & brow-beat the rest of us for not understanding them enough or for not being more like they are or for not being someone they like! It's called biggoted intolerance. So I pretty much expect anyone to prove they have also, a commitment to credible human values based on their actions & i don't give cartblanche acceptance to any special group or individuals who won't demonstrate kindness, patience, love & acceptance in the direction of the rest of us unconditionally, whether they accept & understand who we are or not.. I completely understand owning ones own true personal expression. I know some wonderful people from all walks of life & orientations. Unfortunately we humans are mostly far, far away from any kind well-spring of inate inner wisdom or even an understanding of who we are internally.
Billybob, we certaintly didnt get there on our own but have been assisted on the way by the Mormon, Catholic, Protestant and Baptist churches who have debased, miligned , abused and accused us at every opportunity. At every turn they seek to deny my civil rights and if you think for a moment I am going to sit by and knit them a doily your mistaken. We stood up to the thugs of religion and continue to, hit me once and I turn a cheek, hit me twice I take you down.
I thins best way is know top 10 good facts about christian religion – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-w64eHErxtk, like this.
I am reading this article from the UK and feel the author is somewhat misinformed factually.
"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?"
If the author had properly researched their stance they would know that the abolition of the slave trade in Great Britain was wrought through the life of William Wilberforce a Christian man.
In my experience if anything the subjugation of women has come through the hands of 'men' in all religions....
A poor piece that likes credibility for me, whilst I sympathize with the author and the struggles he may have faced... I think they would make better use of their time researching what a true Christian is as opposed to making false sweeping statements. Thus making their own stance of little apparent virtue.
You are reading this wrong. He didn't say BIBLICAL doctrines. You cannot deny that Christians, in large part, supported slavery and the subjugation of women.
Beth I can't speak for the UK but here in America the Bible was used to support slavery, subjugate women and to advocate the criminalization of interracial marriage. People who believed they knew what God wanted used the Bible to justify their intolerable. Hatred of Jews (they killed Jesus), gays (they are an immoral abomination), slavery (God is Ok with it) the suppression of woman's rights (women were created to be submissive toward men) have all drawn support from the Bible. Does this happen with other religious texts? I'm sure., But as the prevailing source of morality and ethical guidance In America the Bible has been used in every argument where one group seeks to suppress another.
And these beliefs were prevalent right before the flood too...The Bible is clear about this subject but people want to justify their actions by twisting scripture. There is Holy matrimony and there is unholy matrimony. The two shall become one... the one means being able to create offspring.
So an infertil couple should not get married? How about hold people- once a woman can't bear young anymore, she is not allowed to marry?
@ Pey, you are trying to reason with a religious person, hmm I think that's not going to work.
The concept of sin itself is a belief. This is the perfect place for this story.
Thank you for sharing your story. May you have peace and joy throughout your life.
Let me just say a few things. There was no part in bible that supports slavery, segregation, and subjugation of women. People have twisted the words and distorted the original texts.
Hm, that's strange. There are plenty of verses that support the subjugation of women. Being forced to marry one's rapist? Being sold to the highest bidder? Killing a woman who isn't a virgin her wedding night? Yep, totally cool towards women.
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Colossians 3:18 subjugation of women
Picking and choosing scripture scripture is dangerous. It needs to be taken as an integrated whole, for though written by many hands, it has been inspired by One. You will find that Paul quickly follows Col 3:18 with:
Col 3:19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them
An then in Ephesians calls for mutual submission:
Ephesians 5:21-25 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
If you read the quote to the end you will see that Paul calls husbands to even greater sacrifice... to die for his wife as Christ died for the church.
You can pick a single verse of scripture that seemingly supports whatever you want to say. And before you start quoting Old Testament verses about stoning sinners, the most authentic approach is to interpret the Old Testament through the lens of the New.
Whether it be NT, OT, KJV, ect. it's all the infallible word of God or written by men guided by the infallible holy spirit (God) and it is what it is and woman have an inferior status. Jesus once said "he has come not to abolish the law but to fulfill it" it's all valid.
"Sin began with a woman and thanks to her we all must die" Ecclesiasticus, 25:19
"Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says."
-1 Corinthians 14:34
"A woman should learn in quietness and full submission."
-1 Timothy 2:11
Calvin described women as
"... more guilty than the man, because she was seduced by Satan, and so diverted her husband from obedience to God that she was an instrument of death leading all to perdition. It is necessary that woman recognize this, and that she learn to what she is subjected; and not only against her husband. This is reason enough why today she is placed below and that she bears within her ignominy and shame."
Your God doesn't think much of women according to the bible and to say "God does not promote women to have an inferior status in comparison to men" then these scriptures should have never been added to the bible or in any other version of the bible in the first place, Why would God allow it?
Don, you are loved by God. I am praying for you and trust that the Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth. And when that truth comes, your heart will not be hearden, but open to the true and living God.
He has as I have, God loves me just the way I am and the man I am married to.
Articles like this often capture my attention and heart. It is amazing to read and hear what people really believe. We've come up with some type of belief that makes me feel good and accepted. Unfortunately, the Gospel has been perverted simply because many were not taught the truth nor did they seek truth. God is alive! God is true! God is love!! No matter what your belief may be today, deep in your heart, you know that there is more. You may even feel a void, those of you that can still feel and haven't numbed yourself. I know because I've done it. This void can only be filled by your creator, God! May you all truly know the One who created you and loves you unconditionally.
God bless you Don Lemon, you are a good man.
I will agree, though the idea that it's a black focus thing is reverse discrimination. Until people stop dividing us by skin tones (this is blacks included hating whites– and here in columbus ohio that happens allll the time) ) then this crap will never stop. if we can't love each other despite the skin we're in, how do you expect people to stop hating over religion, partner preferences, etc?
Why is a sinful lifestyle in the Belief section?
Why are ignorant bigots allowed to post responses?
Clearly because those of us who are compassionate want to open our minds. Why are YOU here if it's closed?
We didnt want you to feel left out, room for haters as well it seems.
and why YOU keep spreading hate based on your religion??
DONTCARE.....why don't you read some medical journals for a change....you sound very narrow minded and ignorant ....let me guess, you are a republican and watch fox news too
Well this is Fox so I guess You are one of Us.