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.
so, now after years of reading and learning the Bible you realized that the Bible is lieing? if the Bible says that Jonah was inside a "big fish" stomach, that means that he was!!! there is no mention of a whale.
Matthew 12:40 mentions the whale.
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Is any body proud of a person who lives a simple christian life anymore? Now anybody that goes against traditional christian beliefs is thought to be a hero and who ever wants to keep the faith is a bigot, small minded, phobic person. Whats up with that
maybe it's because we think people who live their lives based on a 2000 year old fairytale are pretty dumb.
Thank you, Don Lemmon. Bless you for writing this, and this for your courage. 100% agree with you.
It's true, that is hard. Hatred is an addiction and if it's suppressed it can manifest itself in harmful ways. They should deal with their hate-dependence positively. The sooner he gets to a support group the sooner he will get better.
dorothy what version of the bible are you reading? The I don't like this scripture so I'll cut it out Bible version? You fit Romans 1:28. God can not save us if we choose to cling to sin and say that right is wrong and wrong is right. I'm glad I don't attend a pc church.
LOL...no my dear....I'm studying the Greek text which is going to be the closest we are ever going to get to the original version rather than the translated version that you are most likely reading which has been tainted by many centuries of translations through multiple languages, interpretations, cultural biases, and social/secular prejudice. And you are right....I do attend a "pc" church.......if that stands for "purely christian."
Oh.....and by the way, Romans 1:28 in the original Greek text has a richness that could never be appreciated in an English translation.
Dorothy I have multiple versions of the Bible KJV, HEBREW, and GREEK and they all say the same thing on this subject. and that this is a sin whether you like it or not, apparently this will be something you and God will have to discuss. Mal 3:6 says that God never changes but you want to change Him to suit your desires. I'm thankful that God does not change with every human whim comes along.
God does not change, but thank God some humans stay open to his ongoing revelation so that we still do not (hopefully) have people who believe God justifies slavery, or condemns interracial marriage, and the list goes on. I often wonder whether or not such close-mindedness to revelation is the sin against the Holy Spirit which is referred to in Bible as the only unforgivable sin. If it is, I don't envy you your discussion with God at judgement day.
@dorothy That is why the designer made the ability for a man and a man to procreate naturally right? your really silly. A true Love would be with Warning not telling everyone you are ok the way you are.. as far as the Old testament topics you bring up.. I would like you to specifically list the scriptures for GOD approving these things. or did it relate to the isreali people. and did it have to do with color or belief. your arguement can be shreded in seconds.. gay is an abomination to God. just like Murder. I would caution you though for if you are a stumbling block to your brother/sister in the courses of doctrine you find yourself in danger of offending the very one you say you serve. All mainline churches except episicapol, and theologist for 2000 years have stayed true that the bible clearly states Gay is sin, you think yourself better than all of them? Gayness is just not Loving GOD enough to surrender their lustful desires...guilty of 2 sins actually Idolizing lust before God, and rebellion to His word.
@Dorothy I can't wait for the day I get the chance to see God face to face.Sin is sin, facts are facts. God thankfully is full of grace and mercy and those that truly seek Him will find Him and He will make them a new creature in Christ.May the God of heaven open your eyes to His truths and not your own.
"facts are facts"
That's right an you now know the fact that gay people are born that way. It's so funny to watch silly christians putting their god in a box. If you had an open mind you would realize your God is continuing to reveal new truths to you, the truth is people are born gay and are not sinners.
@Susan silly liberals always trying to understand what they wont even bother reading. there are no new truths that God has to reveal, it's all in His word now. God calls it sin then and now. Don't like the fact take it up with Him not me.
Brenda time to do some homework nothing in the bible points to gays it's all about or-gi-es and pros-ti-tu-tion. The greek word true meaning is male pros-ti-tu-tion not ho-mo-se-xual.
@Steven -which word translates to pro-sti-tu-tion? Maybe that word was used because the only way you could have a same *** relationship was to pay for it? Lev. 18:22 Lev. 20:13 and romans 1:27 are actually pretty plain language.
Lev. 18:22 – pa-gan s-ex ritual worshipping a pa=gan god This pas-sage does not refer to gay s-ex generally, but only to a specific form of ho-mo-se-xual prosti-tu-t-ion in pag-an temples. Much of Lev-it-icus deals with the Holiness Code which outlined ways in which the ancient Hebrews were to be set apart to God. Some fert-ility worship practices found in early pag-an cultures were specifically prohibited; ritual same-se-x behavior in pag-an temples was one such practice.
Lev. 20:13 – This is the correct translation of Leviticus 20:13. It is not forbidding male ho-mo-se-xuality; it simply forbids two males to lie down in a woman’s bed. Culturally, a woman's bed was her own, only her husband was permitted in her bed, and there were even restrictions on when he was allowed in there.
romans 1:27 In the original Greek, the phrase does not mean "pas-sions" or "lust" as people experienced in normal, day-to-day living - the type of emotion that one encounters in a marriage or se-x-ually active relationship. It refer s to the "fren-zied state of mind that many ancient mystery cu-lts induced in wors-hipers by means of wine, drugs and music." It describe the results of ritual se-x-ual or-g-ies as performed in many pagan settings at the time.
The issue is that people tend to select that interpretation that most closely reinforces their initial biases about the Bible and ho-mo-se-x-uality.
Exactly Steven. You said it much better and much clearer than me. Thank you.
Wow! what a stretch of the imagintion in no version of the Bible can I find your translation even going back to the Hebrew/Chaldean which the old testament is in, not Greek. If two men were just sleeping they would not have been put to de-ath. You keep twisting it. tap tap the dust is off my feet.
brenda the reason for the death penalty was ido-latry. One common form of ido-latry among the peoples surrounding Israel was male sacred prosti-tut-ion. It is quite natural that engaging in that specific form of idolatry would carry the death penalty. You should try picking up a history book. It's no wonder people like you take the scripture so literally and not in context.
"I can't wait for the day I get the chance to see God face to face"
It will go something like this....
God: "What makes you think I would write a book that causes you to hate and condemn others?"
You: "I don't know, I was told you wrote it?"
God: "Doesn't that sound a lot more like something satan would write to trick you into self righteous condemnation?"
You: "Well yes, but the book says..."
God (interrupting): "For the last time, I DID NOT WRITE THAT BOOK, SATAN DID!!!!"
I hope you like hot weather.
On the other hand, JayIV, I can understand where they are coming from. I cannot imagine the pain I would feel if somebody told me that the loving relationship I have with my husband was "sinful." Even though I would know in my heart and soul that they were so wrong, it would still be so hurtful to hear those words. And I cannot imagine how devastated I would be if my church told me that because God chose to make me infertile and I have never been able to have children that they would have to consider my marriage null and void. And, even worse yet, that not only would they consider it null and void in the eyes of the Church but that they were going to advocate to the state that they also no longer recognize my marriage and that they recommend all my husband's and my rights as a married couple be taken away. In that situation I could see where I might have a tainted view on those people.
As a recovering hate addict, I hope we can get passed judging people based on their religious orientation. Words like "bigot" and "ignorant" are not helpful to the conversation.
I still find it quite amazing that people can believe that loving another individual with one's whole heart, body, and soul can be sinful. it defies logic and it certainly defies the message of the Bible. To encourage people not to be true to their nature is so harmful to their psyche and their spirit – may God have mercy on those who continue to encourage such an abomination in His name. I often wonder if being so "close-minded" is the "sin against the Holy Spirit" referred to in the Bible – the only unforgivable sin. I am very confident that our gay brothers and sisters will enter the gates of heaven way before any of us straight people who continue to persecute them with our words and actions (and posts).
Interesting. Another article about one person's opinion. I guess that's why they call this section "belief." I don't try to scream Levitical law because Jesus set us free from the law. But New Testament covers this too. Debate away. But some will never stop searching for every twist and turn to somehow justify what the Spirit has already told them within is wrong. Yes, my opinion....with peace.
I know people in our church who were gay but after being saved through the blood of Jesus Christ they went on to marry and have children, praise the Lord!
Are they happy?
Of course we are happy. All my gay and lesbian friends have great family lives, supportive friends and family, great jobs, great kids, own their homes and have wonderful relationships through their churches.
I offer a simple warning to those who are gay, yet still wish to be Christian.
Be careful! You brothers in Christ, given the opportunity, would do more than merely mock you.
They have within their bowels thousands, and possibly millions, who would happily put you ina camp, gas you to death, and erase any mark you have ever left on this planet.
It is important for those of us who are straight and Christian and realize the folly of those who condemn gay people, to not be complacent and silent. Unfortunately the vocal minority has frequently led society astray using a poor translation and interpretation of the Bible to justify prejudice and (quite frankly) sinfulness. This has included slavery, inter-racial marriage, condemnation of people of other faiths, and now gays. Thank God that many mainstream Christian religions now take a more scholarly view of how God reveals Himself in Scripture.
God is so great that he had to make his message interpreted in a million different ways. How cool is that?
Thank you crucified. And Dorothy there is also reference to in the new testament Romans 1:24-27,32 no the word isn't there but the concept is. I don't nit pick the scriptures it is what it is.
Wow are you a follower of bs or what. Pick up a history book and learn about roman culture. Part of reading is putting it also into historical context.
@Brenda I am glad you have a foundation of the scriptures..truth is the only opportunity for your nephew to change is if people explain it is wrong.. show through scripture...Love him enough to always tell the full concequenses of Sin and that we serve a Just God.. we lean on him for redemption..and take action to remove the things God hates.."sin"Love is not about just emotion making people feel good.. but it is also about. correction.
"opportunity for your nephew to change is if people explain it is wrong.. show through scripture...Love him enough to always tell the full concequenses of Sin and that we serve a Just God.."
Yeah Brenda if you listen to this bs you will drive your nephew to suicide it's been well docu-mented that being gay is not a choice and it can not be voluntarily changed. Don't listen to the rhetoricof a prejudice person. If your nephew commits suicide over it his blood is on your hands and that of this "crucified."
worth the risk... instead of eternal damnation... If I was on the path to destruction i would want to know
crucified get an education so you can stop spreading hatred in our society. It's time to come into this century.
Worth the risk? Possible suicide? You are sick and you need to get help. Thats the same reasoning used during the inquisition and how many souls do you think they saved? They certainly killed a lot of innocents, but saved souls? No, just robbed many people of years and years of life.
I would much rather tell someone the truth abouth their eternal destination based on the moral standard of the bible than just rock them to sleep... allowing the Devil to torment the individual in Hell for eternity.
Listen to the continuous Ad Hominem attacks on anyone who doesn't agree with his social beliefs by Steven. In this one post one can pick out enough Fallacious comments/arguments to teach a basic Philosophy course of what critical thinking is not.......goofy!
Yes, let us please all argue through comments on CNN's website. That will change everyone's mind altogether, zealots and sinners alike.
"Listen to the continuous Ad Hominem attacks on anyone who doesn't agree with his social beliefs by Steven. In this one post one can pick out enough Fallacious comments/arguments to teach a basic Philosophy course of what critical thinking is not.......goofy!'
So you insult Steven with your comment, that makes you a hypocrite. Touche!
LOL – my post got sent to the moderator again. I can only guess that the program understands greek as well! The bottom line, however, is that Paul used a neologism in his text despite commonly used (and better understood) alternatives being available. The other common word that was used is better translated as woman-like or soft and was commonly used to refer to people irrespective of their orientation. This information can be looked at through primary source verification. The bottom line is that since the word is a neologism it is up for interpretation. The current common translation, however, is fraught with the prevailing bias at that time of the translation rather than the historical context and literary context at the time of its authorship.
@ Mr. Montijo – you asked for my source. My source is the simple translation of the Greek. If you look at the literature at the time of the Bible there was an accepted word for ho mo se xu ality. That word would have been used in the Bible if that were the intention. A different Greek word was used, however. Every time I try printing the Greek, my post gets sent to the moderator. I will try to give you the words in a separate post.
I was referring to Brendas assertion that most gays/lesbians were abused during childhood. Sorry, I did not make that clear.
Well in fairness to you , Mr. Montijo, you did hit the "reply" to Brenda so I should not have assumed you were talking to me. My bad!
"Your question is just a circular reference question that has no answer created by a simplistic human mind to try and 'outsmart' their creater. It's essentially asking what will give way first, An unstoppable force or an immoveable object or can you make perfectly round sphere even more round? The question has no answer because we simply cannot comprehend what we're asking."
in response to my argument:
"Do you believe God holds absolute power in every sector of everything?
If yes, Do you believe God can do anything (e.g. make the impossible possible, vice versa)
If yes, then can God create a being that is even more powerful than he is?
If yes, then God does not posses all power since this new being posses more power than He.
If no, then even God cannot do ALL things..
If you believe God would not put himself in that situation, then you are simply avoiding the question. The question is not whether or not he would do the action, its whether or not he could if he wanted to."
Its funny that you say that because I feel the same way! The problem is however that this circular reference question is created by christian theologists; specifically, the argument naturally arises by the statements that declare the existence of absolute powers in the first place.
You see, what logicians do when declarations of presumed absolutely true statements contradict each other, then either one or both statements are automatically invalid! And therefore either one or both statements cannot be absolutely true!
Therefore, according to COMMON SENSE or better yet, logic; the answer to the question is that either one or both statements MUST be false. You claim that its because we cannot comprehend it, and frankly I agree, we cannot file that argument away as a logical one. The problem is though, that I am not making any claims of absolute powers. Rather it is christian theologists, and well ultimately you, whom are the ones declaring that an unstoppable and immovable force can and does exist. and therefore Christians, and again ultimately you. ignore the fact that those two forces cannot logically co-exist.
As a result, you justify the irrationality of your statements by declaring that it is beyond human understanding.
What if "god" doesn't actually "do" anything but "is" all things?
It's called pantheism.
Well, we know what it is called. My question is, how would one attempt to apply logic 'a la The Oracle's treatise to the refutation thereof?
That's a rather illogical statement anyway...
If you claim something to be infinite or all-powerful, it can not be surpassed.
My god can beat up your god.
oops...typo...I meant to say "Most Christians DON'T adhere to the ancient Judaic laws – you can't pick and choose."
If people are so worried about "Sins" solely...stop eating shrimp, crab, lobster etc, don't wear makeup and so on. if your a true Christian and you follow the bible, then follow it. You can't pick and choose to satisfy your outrage and what displeases you, there are no loopholes.
You are right there are no loopholes! Jesus said it is not what goes into a persons mouth that makes him unclean but what preceedith out of. so you can eat the food! however, causing confusion and being a stumbling block for Christians..that would be something to worry about. are you worried?
To a christian sin is sin.It's not a straight or gay issue it's a human issue. I'm not the judge in this matter Tania your right God is. Lev. 18:22 calls it what it is. Am I with out sin no, just forgiven. I am neither typical, hateful or an intollerant christian as you suppose. Most (not all) Gay or lesbian people were the victims of someone that was attracted to them or abusive to them when they were at a young and vulnerable age. And I was not trying to lump them with criminals just other sins.
"Most (not all) Gay or lesbian people were the victims of someone that was attracted to them or abusive to them when they were at a young"
Oh please share the source you got this bogus information from. You are making up things as you go along to justify your prejudice. What's sad is you can't even see it. SCARY!
Brenda, you said "Most (not all) Gay or lesbian people were the victims of someone that was attracted to them or abusive to them when they were at a young and vulnerable age."
May I ask where you get that idea from? Speak strictly in anecdotal terms, I know a very large number of gay, lesbian, bis-exual, and transgendered people...probably hundreds of them (at least as acquaintances). I can count on one hand the number who have been abused at a young age. Two of those were abused by an opposite gender offender.
I'm not saying that it doesn't happen. I'm questioning your use of the word "Most".
Brenda do you know that psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals agree that ho-mos-exuality is not an illness, a mental disorder, or an emotional problem. More than 35 years of objective, well-designed scientific research has shown that ho-mos-exuality, in and itself, is not associated with mental disorders or emotional or social problems. Ho-mos-exuality was once thought to be a mental illness because mental health professionals and society had biased information
The original Greek had a word specifically for ho mo se xu al ity that is nowhere to be found in the New Testament. If this were the intention of the author of the Biblical text, the word would have been used. The word that is used in the texts that are cited actually is more appropriately translated "abuse of self." It is the reason why the original translation referred to self stimulation. Interestingly, at the time of the reformation, that no longer appeared to be a popular translation. (I wonder why!?!?) Regarding the Old Testament, Christians adhere to the ancient judaic laws – you can't pick and choose.
oops...typo...I meant to say "Most Christians DON'T adhere to the ancient Judaic laws – you can't pick and choose."
Please cite your sources my dear.
@Dorothy, you should be more specific... there were laws that were just for the Jews.. there were commandments from God, there where temple laws...and there were the laws that Jesus corrected with support in Peter. such as the commonly used can't eat pork...Jesus said it is not what goes in your mouth that makes you unclean but what comes out... thesses silly vises only work on those who do not know their bible..try again.
"and there were the laws that Jesus corrected"
That's why Jesus said "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets." LOL! It's really obvious you are the one who doesn't have good reading comprehension and don't know the bible....oh...try again.
You are absolutely correct.
The greek terms used are "malakoi" and "ar.senkoitai"
Until the Reformation in the 16th century and in Roman Catholicism until the 20th century, malakoi was thought to mean "mas.turb.ators." Only in the 20th century has it been understood as a reference to hom.ose.xuality.
BTW – The filter doesn't let you say "ar.se"
@steven you took out of context... it was refering to the Man laws not the God laws.. Jesus corrected the comprehension of the laws.. if there was a margin or error it was corrected then therefore not leadway on the gay thing.
"@steven you took out of context.."
That is exactly what you are doing with the scriptures when it comes to the gay issue. Again you are a hypocrite.
"Most (not all) Gay or lesbian people were the victims of someone that was attracted to them or abusive to them when they were at a young and vulnerable age."
When you make up lies to justify your ignorance you are only hurting yourself and God will not forgive you.