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.
Subhan'Allah, my Brother! Let's leave judgment & discrimination behind for ALL people. Take a break, hypocrites. Take a breath & pray about the mote in your own eye.
I'm with you, Don & may Allah(swt) continue to bless you with iman & abundance.
You have enough company where you're going! You still need more?
@"truth" - get a life, you judgmental hypocrite!
and just to say, I have a girlfriend and I met her at church!!!!
Just because the truth upsets you does not change the facts, unfortunately for you, and your girlfriend whom you met at church.
What are the facts? Faith is belief, not fact.
"Just because the truth upsets you does not change the facts, unfortunately for you, and your girlfriend whom you met at church."
The fact is you will be the one in hell with your prejudice att-itudes while her and her girlfriend are hanging with God. Get over yourself hypocrite.
Asher Brown, 13yo
Seth Walsh, 13yo
Justin Aaberg, 15yo
Bill Lucas, 15yo
Raymond Chase, 19yo
Tyler Clementi, 18yo
Eric Mohat, 17yo
Meredith Rezak, 16yo
Carl Walker-Hoover, 11yo
Jaheem Herrera, 11yo
Tyler Long, 17yo
Phoebe Prince, 15yo
Zach Harrington, 19yo
Corey Jackson, 19yo
Brandon Britner, 14yo
Bill Clayton, 18yo
Jimmy Wheeler, 19yo
These are just a handful of the gay youth here in the US have that have been bullied relentlessly for something that they could not change and saw no other way out than to end their own lives. Not living was easier than living in this world for these children. These are just a handful of the people who could have been extraordinary adults and could have done extraordinary things for this world if they were still alive. I'm sure each of these young people prayed every night at some point for God to make them straight. Unfortunately, they did not live in a world where they had someone to tell them that God made them the way He wanted them to be made...that they were perfection in His eyes. Instead, they lived in a world that told them they were dirty, sinners and going to hell. Before you say, "gays...you need to leave our children alone!" or "gays are turning our children gay"...please note that these children were never exposed to gays. They came from straight families. They grew up in straight America, and they were bullied relentlessly...not only by other children at school (who had been taught at home that being gay was a sentence to hell), but also by adults who post on blogs like this saying that gays are horrible people and going to hell. People who are out there condemning gays and teaching our youth that being gay is wrong and dirty and abominable should really stop and take a long look at what they are doing, because, unfortunately, the blood of these innocent children is on their hands.
I, personally, am at total peace with God. I don't need anyone to tell me of my sins or alleged sins. I am aware of my sins and I confess. I am 100% comfortable knowing that one day I will meet God for His judgement of me and I will be prepared for Him to give that judgement. Let's be clear, no one else needs to judge me in God's place.
Let's all love each other and try to put a stop to the senseless murder of our youth.
Emotional arguement versus scripture...You can Love someone without approval of Sin! to put Christians who preach the Word based on Scripture in the catagory of Bulling is unfair and reckless..this is a gross misrepresentation.
@crucified: For one moment, please crawl out of the box that you clearly live in and put yourself in the shoes of an 11 or 13 year-old little boy. This little boy has known for sometime that he is different in that he has crushes on other boys, but has been bullied his entire life because he is different and told by adults that being gay is wrong. He decides to get on CNN.com and comes across this article. It sparks his interest because he has been praying to God every night that he would become straight, but those feelings won't go away. He opens the article, reads it, then scrolls farther down the page and starts seeing postings in this blog. He has been bullied relentlessly at school and is severely depressed because of it. Then he sees someone claiming to be the all-knower of everything Christ say, and I quote, "There will be NO gays in Heaven because it is a rebellion to what God says...they just did not LOVE God enough to change." This callous, misinformed and wreckless use of the Bible does not do much to help that child love himself. Instead, on top of the bullying the child has endured at school...he sees someone who claims to be speaking God's gospel telling him that he is going to hell. Please tell me how that is any different, if not worse, than bullying at school? The name-calling at school, the shoves, etc are one thing....the kid can possibly see that one day all of that will end. But to be told that all he has to look forward to is the damnation to hell...just for being who God made him...well what else does that child have to live for?
All I'm saying is that you need to really think about the comments you make and who your audience is before you make them. They can have unforeseen consequences (or at least I hope they are unforeseen). May God help your child (if you have one or ever have one) if he or she is born gay, because you are going to be the cause of that child growing up hating him or herself.
Kids...know that God made you who you are. Know that you are perfect in God's eyes and that He does not hate you for being who he made you. Life gets better than all of this...and one day...all of these people who say things that hurt you will have to stand in front of God and answer the questions..."why did you not love your fellow neighbor?" and "why would you question my creation?"
@dbl another reckless misrepressemtation based on emotion....look..Even though my child wanted to go play in the street and He believed God made him with those thoughts so therefore he was designed that way/// I would still get after him to keep him from getting run over by a truck.. I see the greater concequense, the Truck or Hell, over my childs percieved happy thought. If you believe in Hell, and the scriptures without twisting and contorting them, and you truely love God's creation.. you warn people about the Truck even though people like you condemn them with the same bias you say we have. The point is people like you are putting to much stock in this life, and not concerned about the next.. 70 years of percieved unhappiness is nothing compared to the eternality of Hell Rev 21:8 .. I don't ever lose sleep over someone getting their feelings hurt over telling the true, I do however, lose sleep everytime your type misrepresentation sends another soul to Hades.
@crucified – Look your analogy is really stupid since you refuse to listen to the truth that has been shown about gays. They are born this way, created by God! We were given science as a better way to understand about our world and that science is continuing to show they are born this way. It's been shown that everything we knew about this subject in the past was done by bias and prejudice people – that now includes you. God created gays to show narrow minded Christians like you that you have prejudice in your hearts and will spread lies. You are the one going to hell not the saved gays! Get over yourself!
The problem isn't the religion. It's the people within the religion or better yet the church. They abuse their power thinking they are higher and mightier then us sinners, and try to conform us to what THEY think we should be. They have to realize the only one that has the power is God. This is the way God created us. In my case I am being psychologically brain washed to believe that I have to be straight. Ok so you like being straight!! I don't. In my case I hid behind my husband like so many people do because "It's the right thing to do". It wasn't right for me. It's not right for a lot of people. I CHOOSE not to live a lie, and pretend I like being with somebody I really don't. The desire for men is not there. Don't force it on me!!!! Love me for who I am. There are so many suicides because so many of have to hide because of what society puts us through. It doesn't have to be that way. IT'S OK TO BE GAY!!!!! Be yourself. And don't be anybody else, and know that Jesus loves you regardless. Butterflies and rainbows forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
don't want you to conform to the church just to Christ... Jesus was not Gay and you should not. Unless you think Jesus was Gay?? of course that puts you in the catagory of a depraved mind. for He was not controlled by his Flesh.
"of course that puts you in the catagory of a depraved mind. for He was not controlled by his Flesh."
Speaking for Jesus now are you – it's a made up fairytale and you've lost your mind.
I am so dissappointed in Don Lemon; a strapping young successful black man and he has male lovers?!?! Oh my God! Help us.
Again, proves the point. So nice and "Christian" of you to believe it's better to grow up thinking you're evil and better off allowing yourself to be brainwashed. If you're going to be self-righteous, judgmental, narrow-minded and ignorant, keep it to yourself.
@pinnocio Narrow minded and arrogant because we do not believe like you? typical Athiest judgemental statement......
@crucified - narrow-minded and arrogant because you choose to condemn what you don't understand based on a text which you don't understand. Climb down off your pedestal and live in the real world.
I am wearing cotton, silk and wool - should I be stoned to death? The Bible says I should.
Thank you for proving my point.
@ pinnocio you are silly!
crucified you win the award on silliness. Get over yourself.
mike thomas, the kids are confused bcos of people like u, the kids see most of the world with a daddy and mummy, not 2 daddys and u thinks that that is not confusing? live our kids alone,if they came to you and said they wanted to be killers or to crash planes into buildings would you tell them, you can be wat u feel like, u guys should be real.please leave our children, dont confuse them with ur sick minds!
Thank you for proving my point.
Wow are you ignorant on this subject or what.
Studies comparing groups of children raised by ho-mo-se-xual and by het-erose-xual parents find no developmental differences between the two groups of children in four critical areas: their intelligence, psychological adjustment, social adjustment, and popularity with friends. It is also important to realize that a parent's s-ex-ual orientation does not indicate their children's.
It's you who shouldn't be the one to have kids with hatred and ignorance. Grow up. Being gay is not a mental illness either. DUH!
d! Do us all a favor. Don't procreate.
@tb63 - I get the feeling that won't be an issue.
@d!: .........Thank you for providing more evidence as to why cousins shouldn't get married.
Don you're a brave man and maybe you'll teach somebody something. I'm a teacher and we see these confused kids come through all the time. I always tell them to be themselves but talk to someone in the professional field who understands them.
It is a colossal waste of time trying to engage the religious, bigoted, judgmental, self-righteous zealots in a reasonable discussion, because they are so brainwashed, there is no room for reason. Not only are they convinced God wrote the Bible 2,000-4,000 years ago, that he supernaturally guided the MEN who decided what should be included and what should not, but that it should be interpreted literally today (well, except for the parts about stoning people for wearing two different threads, or working on the sabbath, or planting different crops side by side, because, you know, that's just silly). They pick and choose whatever suits their purpose. It's like trying to change the mind of someone who thinks aliens have infiltrated Earth's infrastructure. Waste of time.
Time to make some money off selling tin foil hats! Or better yet selling tickets into the unknown, unproven afterlife! All sales final!! No Refunds!!
@Phil, this is the second time I completely agree with you. I actually wrote a paper on the issue of the bible's literal validity in my Old Testament RS Class, and used this same argument. Men are fallible, and will always have there own interpretations based on their own beliefs to bring to the table. God did not write the bible, Man did. Period.
Bigotry and hatred? ... because I believe what God writes in his own Word? You can't rewrite the Bible no matter how hard you try. He makes the rules, and until you are ready to look him in His face and call him a bigot and full of hate, perhaps you should refrain from calling His believers that. As wise and "englightened" as your thoughts are, I believe I'll let God decide what is and isn't sin.
Right - let GOD define sin. Not some self-righteous ignoramus who is so arrogant as to believe he knows what God thinks.
@pinocio He did define sin.
God did not write the Bible–Men did and men have edited it, copied it, translated it-some women have joined in of very late but it was men. The Bible "Meaning Library" has been brought together over thousands of years. There is not even agreement in all the faith traditions that use the Bible of exactly whats in and whats out and how to arrange the books in the Library. "Literal" interpretation of the Bible was not an issue until after "The Enlightenment" and the emergence of science. The Bibles significant meanings and revelations of Man's understanding's of God are enhanced with more than literal meaning. The Bible is to lead to understanding of God not worship of the Bible.
"God writes in his own Word"
God never wrote one word – the bible is a fantasy book just like the Harry Potter, men wrote it to control weak minded people who couldn't cope with the reality of life.
Ok Wow, its time for you to stop talking (typing) now, I think you are getting very very tired, cause you are not making any sense at all!!!!
Hey truth..truth hurts LOL!
Can't rewrite the Bible?
Tell that to Schlafly over at Conservapedia.
Apparantly, the KJV is leftist, commie, un-american propaganda that had to be patriotically re-translated by TRUE christians.
Talk about child abuse! Raising a child to believe, with no rational proof, that there is a god, heaven, and hell. Perhaps you haven't stood back far enough to take a good look at that stuff the local witch doctors (preachers) have been drilling into your frightened little head.
As if you base everything you do on rational proof. Much of your life is based on faith I'm sure. Also, I can't help but notice how little you know of the Bible. You take scripture way out of context and smear it in such a biased way. It is very easy to take a statement and change it's meaning by ignoring the context. Most Americans enjoy sound bites, but simply don't dig down to look at the foundation or setting of stories or thoughts. Simply look at the media that we are so engrossed with. We want quick blips of information, completely ignoring the context. I hope you one day learn how layered and rich scripture truly is.
by the way Kierra, Quatum Physics through the shroedinger mathmatical model proves a singular God.. you are apart of a sub reality of a greater one.. one that was designed for you.Hence, requiring a designer.
"by the way Kierra, Quatum Physics through the shroedinger mathmatical model proves a singular God.. you are apart of a sub reality of a greater one.. one that was designed for you.Hence, requiring a designer."
You need serious mental help dude.
@LOL I know...Math was not your strong suit.
crucified you have no proof and if it truly proved it once and for all it would be all over the media it's not because it's completely bogus. Keep proving you'll believe anything and take it literally without proof. LOL!
@LOL it has been in the news...but probably not the type you read..and not in marvel comments.. why do you not try science lit. It is in there or just look up the formula on Google. Schrodinger Mathmatical model shows we are a sub reality of a greater one. the sub reality being designed by the greater one.. requiring a singular organized Creator.
Oh wait you're going outside the bible to believe in an alternate reality! That formula is not in the bible you would think that if it proved God, God would have included it. LOL!
You are such a hypocrite, since it's science that has proved gays are born that way. LOL!
@LOL Science did not say that.. a few Psycho-logist said.. and they where concerned about Feelings.. biologist would disagree since it is impossible for a gay couple to have a baby naturally.
Don Lemon is brave, articulate and very wise. I hope his positive message will increase understanding of gay people within the church and society at large.
How can I be a good hermaphrodite? Where do I fit in? Was I damned to hell before I was born? I look like a girl now, but I think like a male. Please let me know when you have my biblical rules figured out. I believe I am a "good" christian.
No one is truly 'good', that's why we should rely on Christ daily. For 'all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God' Romans 3:23, which should point us to our need of a savior. Most people find their savior in themselves, society, or whatever else us humans can concoct, but in the end we are so limited.
You all of us were born somewhere, somehow, without our consent or knowleged,black ,yellow, or white,or anything other in between, beautiful or ugly, inteligent or stupid, male , female or anytthing in between,given a name, a country, a religion, brothers and sisters, ants, oncles, mothers, fathers, etc.. we had, and, today still, have no control over all that. We were lied to and continue to be,by "society" to control us. Most people do not realise this and continue to live this lie until they died.Few of us know the differance and live much happier life, becasue it is a life without lies.Most peolple don't have time for reflexion and will never be able to reach this level of understanding.Religions are suppose to teach love and understanding, but so far, have failed to do so. Why ? because it is based on lies not veryfable fatcs. If we accepct the idea of being born and accept life( birth and death) then we can share our happyness with all and don't have to pray for anything.
Sorry folks "typo".... that would be concerned...:)
Hey Yo!!! If you do not believe satan exist...hang around and you will see him in the flesh!!! You need to read your King James Bible.... OBEY ACTS 2:38 then come back and tell me what is real!! Love and concered for you!! CSR
Been there......done that......as have the Gays in my Church.......and it is right.....They ARE saved!!!!! Praise Jesus (who never once in his life condemned a gay man or woman and probably worked a miracle or two for some while on earth)
of course satan isn't real come on use your head, why would a all knowing God reward a angel who tried to over throw him with his own domain just to torment us? How does that make God all good? A God knowing full well if he didn't dispose of Satan he would do such a thing? Satan is just an excuse for when a all loving forgiving God does bad things
Perhaps you should take time to read 2 short stories: Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and Plato's "Analogy of the cave."
@keiira funny plato's Cave can describe spiritual enlightenment also, as Christians see it you are still staring at the wall watching the shadow of the dog bark while satan has you chained to the floor.. the rest of us dance in the light outside the cave.. sometimes people come back to tell you about the cave and you attack them and want to kill them be cause you are comfortable with your chains of Satan. maybe you should use a different arguement.
what does that even mean? You will see him in the 'flesh'. are you batty?
Great article. I have recently come to accept I am lesbian (and I am in my late 30's). I am white and Canadian, but really the bigotry and hatred and stigma applies to all. I agree that we need to start looking at ending the hatred instead of trying to change ourselves. If I could choose a different way, to be straight, I certainly would, but I can't. Religion has a place in the world but can also isolate people when it promotes segregation of groups instead of understanding. On the flip side, I am thankful to live in Canada and not some other countries where being gay is literally a death sentence.
Best to you. I have to believe that if there is a Supreme Being, she is pleased when two people - ANY two people - try to live a life of love. One of the fundamental tenets of Christianity (defined as following the example of Christ) is tolerance. That people try to vilify other people for the direction their hearts lead them - and using religion as a sword - has to be REPUGNANT to God.
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14
When it comes to love or attraction Man has no choice but to accept the fact that God made this choice for them. You can't change another,you can only change how you precieve them. You may find that many of your concepts are connected to your Religious beliefs. Most of us were exposed at a very early age and have never questioned our beliefs, Why is it that Jesus himself never mentions Gays or condems them. If you are a Christian,you follow in the footsteps of Jesus right?
You must be referring to that god that, among other violent things, killed an entire city of toddlers whose parents didn't smear freshly killed lamb's blood over their doorways. That god that killed an entire planet of living creatures, except for a few on a boat, because he had a temper tantrum. You know which god I mean, the jealous one (according to the Decalogue).
Religion, especially Christianity (Christian + Insanity), is a mental disorder!
Jesus says a Man and a Woman shall leave their father's house and make one flesh.. He did not mention the other. and they were not designed to procreate by the creator.. these are really silly arguements. square pegs do not fit in round holes.
crucified your prejudice and bigotry is disgusting you are a menace to society. Grow up.
Yep. It's all about procreation. Because if there's one thing this world needs, it's more people!
"Jesus never mentions gays or condemns them"??? Do you read at all?? Please girl start reading!!
If JC said anything about gays or condemned them, that page is missing from my Bible.
Reread Mark Jesus discourse on se..xu.al im..mora.lity,, also Matthew Jesus gives details of a Marraige between Man and Woman.. not steve and bill...the im.morality part refers back to Leviticus and Deutironomy. and if you want to through some curve in there read josephus he lays out Lev 40 pretty clear that it is gays he is refering to. He was a Jewish scribe of the time. now if you say Jesus did not write the words you would be discounting the disciples that lived with Jesus 3 1/2 years and their teachings which was to follow Jesus. therefore from the words of Jesus.
People don't listen to "crucified" they can't read in context which means putting it into historical perspective, they take everything literally, their clueless. God created gays and lesbians, science and psychology proved it.
Jesus did not need to mention it as that is not the problem. The problem is not putting God first. The problem is putting ones own desires above the needs of others. If you cannot get this basic order of things there is no need to go on. As Jesus said the law can be summerized in this "love God and love your neigbor as yourself"
I think if rub against a tree growing up and you get an erection, I'm sure you 'll say I am attracted to trees. Do we start marrying trees or our pets is a good question. We are not our own. We ask to be here on earth, so we must search and understand why we were made and for what purpose we were made. A lot of time, it contradicts what we ourselves believe.
Your comment shows you don't even understand anything about gays and should keep you ignorant opinions to yourself.
You're actually a gay tree, aren't you?
WOW! A tree....really, a tree? I think you're missing the ENTIRE concept homes. Geeeez!
Very well put Sammy!! I think that explains it in the simpliest way!
No HMB is shows sammy is clueless on this subject and based his opinion on ignorance.
I just think that this Satan fella is very naughty and annoying.
Satan doesn't exist, you might want to seek therapy.
@Yo Satan is at work all over this Blog.
YO, satan does exist! YOU may want to seek therapy before you meet him...
HMB you and crucified believe in something that doesn't exist you are the ones in need of therapy. Prove satan is alive and well. LOL!