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.
"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.'
In other words, 'I don't like what the Bible teaches about something, therefore I am going pretend it is all just a metaphor so I can do whatever I want.'
The bible is a fairy tale. It's fiction. Made up. Fake.
All you bible-thumpers go f&*k yourself.
Well, you may call people bigots, hateful, or whatever you may.....But the fact of the matter is that the Bible refers to it as an abomination... Now, GOD is Absolutely, 100%, a loving God, full of grace and mercy. He loves all people, but despises sin. He hates the sin. He hates sin so much that he turned His head on His own son while He took our sin on the cross. I agree that Christians need to change their people approach, but we cannot accept sin as righteousness.
What is an abomination is pagan ritual s-ex, ra-pe, male prost-itution and idolatry. What you are using to reference a sin has nothing to do with what we now know about gays. God created them, they are born this way. Your bigotry and prejudice is a sin and an abomination.
iWake up folks! Being gay IS NOT a choice, It is how God made someone. I am the mother of a gay son, who suspected he was gay when he was very little. He talks about being in the 3rd grade and realizing he was different than his friends. If you believe being gay is a choice what day did you choose to be straight?
If the writer is writing from a biblical point of view, the He is wrong. Can everybody read Romans chapter 1 verses 18 to 32 (Romans 1:18-32). This chapter should educate us. I hope that very soon, criminals would not also become the 'images of God' because that is how they feel they were born. The distinguishing sense in matters of morality and value makes us human beings. I believe we would never loose it.
Bigotry wrapped in Bible pages is just as ugly. Wake up. Comparing criminal behavior to being gay is just offensive and shows that you have really not heard what this article is about.
And, of course, Scripture can't be interpreted literally. Incidentally, in one of the theologian John Boswell's books, a Gnostic gospel is discussed where Jesus is presented as a man with a male partner. Finally, Karen Armstrong, whose writing I very strongly recommend, points out that Scripture was not written to be read literally, it was written to be interpreted on several levels, metaphorically. She also points out the dangers and pitfalls of literal interpretation.
That is correct, however, the Bible is a collection of different types of literature, so not everything is literal, and not everything is metaphorical. There can be a chapter of a historical account, directly followed by poetry. Every passage must be examined as any other piece of literature, and THEN interpreted accordingly. (Read the first few chapters of Genesis, and you'll see what I mean.) However, the story of Jonah is very clearly a historical account, so it should not be interpreted metaphorically. Just like the ressurection account is very clearly a historical record, describing eye witnesses, etc. So if you want to interpret it "metaphorically," then you might as well reject it completely.
"Just like the ressurection account is very clearly a historical record, describing eye witnesses"
Do you realize that this was a common theme in other religions in that area. It's not unique nor does it make it real.
Who else would be sumper pumped if one of these bashers children was a "gay". I would feel awful for the child because they could never be who they truly are, but it would certainly make them see the TRUTH!!!
I'd love it if there was reincarnation and Fred Phelps came back as a gay man.
Note to us all: all of these commentes have referred to Christianity and the bible but not one scripture has been quoted; in the article nor follow up comments. The bible says in Proverbs 25:2 that it is the glory of God to conceal a matter and the glory of kings to search out a matter. As Christians we are cllaed to hold up biblical standards of living BUT we are also called to love as Christ loved. The tension surrounding this subjet in our society today is only increasing. To be able to stand and give an account of how we responded will come only thru time on our knees. It's much easier and natural for me to accuse a person then to go to my knees and pray for them asking God for His wisdom in how I am to help bring the light of Christ into my world.
Are you sure that's what the bible says its been rewritten and transcribes a thousand times since the ancient Babylonians
Thank you Jesus for being gay
drop the religious nonsenses be what you choose to be or are born to be without guilt of the social standards
Articles like this are so desperately needed. Being gay is a temptation that straight people don't struggle with. Overcoming the temptation I agree is a choice, but to have someone make a comment that a person chooses to be tempted as a gay person is so far away from the truth, I can barely believe that a person would be so ignorant as to write this comment. God have mercy!
Being gay has nothing to do with race or religion. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Don Lemon, therefore people and especially black people have a choice to keep praying away the gay if they so believe. I dont believe in people trying to justify who or what they are, if you feel so good and comfortable about your orientation so be it. There is no need to further convince others to act differently or accept your own opinions.
Ummm... duh until they are given equal civil right you are going to continue to hear about it. Just like African American and women had to do to get theirs. DUH!
I'm thinking Civil Rights might cause a "need to further convince others to act differently or accept your own opinions". Until ALL people are allowed to live EQUALLY there will always be a need to convince others. ALWAYS.
The Bible clearly states that nothing can be added to it and nothing taken away....it's timeless...deal with it. No man or woman has ever been "born gay" and never will. You choose to be such and your reap the consequences of such. God never would make a man or a woman something he clearly considers an abomination and finds disgusting and they have no human control over it. It's all about Free Will and we all have it till the end and it's up to us what we choose to do with it. So, quit blaming God for your state of putrid mental being...you did it to yourself and that's that and you will reap the harvest thereof in time.
Clearly there's no talking to you. Enjoy your life.
"You choose to be such and your reap the consequences of such"
Wow are you clueless. They don't choose to be gay, their born that way it has to do with hormone levels in the womb and genetics. Duh
It's people like you who give God – and Christianity a bad name – Christians who couldn't be further from Christ-like if they tried. Just listen to yourself. Are you being a good example?
Judge not lest thou be judged.
You say it is a choice to be gay. Tell me why would anyone choose to be a member of a marginalized minority group in this country. For that matter, why would gay individuals in other, less accepting countries, "choose" to be gay if this meant being persecuted, imprisoned, or killed. When I read comments like this I hope that the younger generation will leave behind such ignorant and hateful beliefs and move this country forward.
Yeeaaaa....those kind, gentle words will "bring 'em around to God"....way to go. And for the record not all Christians are bigoted, hateful and closed mnded.
Not so bright Weston.... Just bigoted. Walk a mile in a gay man's shoes before you make assumptions about whether or not it was a "choice" they made.
Weston, why don't you ask an Iranian gay, if it was his choice; that is, if you can get to him before the authorities hang him from a crane?
Please point out the scripture that verifies this statement. "No man or woman has ever been "born gay" and never will. " Clearly you have no experience with that which you attempt to speak. Consider some research before you mouth off. Just a thought.
Are all of you so-called "christians"( as I am thinking you think yourselves) really sure that God is of the opinion that gays are an abomination, or is it just how you yourself feels? I hope that you really think about this becuase, as someone who has hurt people in the past by blaming things on anyone other then herself and continuesly getting burned for it before she learned that it is more important to learn to take responsibility for her actions,( even those she reallly really wanted to be someone else's fault) and letting go of the things she percieved as the real problem( i.e. was my family's decision to move to a place where it seemed cliche that the people used their cultural beliefs to treat her badly for being born disabled a really bad thing or a blessing in disguise, meant to be...yada yada...that sort of thing). Are you sure that your thoughts about what you say is the problem really is the problem, and that you all have a more moral right to have opinions then the rest of us? Just curious.
Another example of someone re-creating God in his own hateful image – God as cruel, in denial of evident reality, judgmental, self righteous – a God who is the affirming self-image of a bigot who needs to feel he's the favorite of the Father, not in spite of his narrow mindedness but because of it.
As I read everyone’s post, I wonder why so many people are making a fuss over being gay. If you are gay then, that is what you are, don’t expect me to like it, or except it. Life is all about choices, and gay is the choice people choose. The real issue is, why is gay people trying to align their plight with the 1960 Civil Rights movement, that like comparing apples and potatoes (nothing remotely close). I hate when anybody makes a gay comment, automatically some gay rights group is up in arms, but if you want to align gay rights with civil rights, why don’t I see the same fire when hate crimes are still going on today?
Um, according to my dictionary, gay rights ARE civil rights.
civil rights: the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality.
Women fought for equality. African Americans fought for equality. We're fighting for equality. What's the difference?
And if you are not gay, do not tell me I chose to be so. You don't have to like it, but I wasn't given a choice.
"Gay" is about as much of a choice as "Black." Stop talking if you have no idea what you're talking about.
"Life is all about choices, and gay is the choice people choose."
No, it's not and if you weren't so lazy to actually do the research you would know, human beings cannot choose to be either gay or straight. For most people, s-exual orientation emerges in early adolescence without any prior s-exual experience. Psychologists do not consider s-exual orientation to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed.
@GI-4-Life, just curious, how old were you when you made the choice to be straight?
Just think about it for a second GI-4-Life, if you say being gay is a choice, the only way you can support that belief is if you have personal evidence. That means that everyday YOU choose to be straight. That means that you are equally interested in men and women and you decide, I will follow my belief that being straight is better and you choose to follow that path. Otherwise, how can you explain it as a choice? I know I believe it's not a choice from my personal experience. I'm straight because I always look at men, I'm curious about men, and it feels good to be with a man. I don't consciously choose to be interested in men. If I felt this way about women, then it would be natural for me to want to be with a woman. That is what I base my logic on. If you have personal evidence that it takes choosing every day of your life to follow one path or the other, then I guess you can say it's a choice....
It's kind of funny when Christians condescendingly call being gay a "lifestyle," when it's not a lifestyle at all, but Christianity is.
(Well, only if you find repulsive arrogance and snide idiocy funny.)
Hi everyone, issue of being what ever you are is not something new, it happen everywhere. even before our forefathers gay do exist but not as open as it is now, people are indirectly waging war against God through sin all in the name of civilization and freedom. i tell you that God can easily put man with Adam as a companion in the beginning of the world, why Eve? its clear that man to man or women to women will bring no fruit, And remember that if you adopt a child or had semen implantation, the baby will end up in your way of life, and thats your negative impact on that kid.
my understanding: believe that satan is wise and tricky, he has power to transform his demons to any creatures, if he want us to sin against God, he will first do it in human form and make us believe nothing wrong in doing such, just like he did to Eve. being gay is satanic bring about to sin against,
"Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!
Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
may the good Lord help us.
"And remember that if you adopt a child or had semen implantation, the baby will end up in your way of life, and thats your negative impact on that kid."
Wow are you ignorant on this subject. Studies comparing groups of children raised by ho-mos-exual and by heteros-exual 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-exual orientation does not indicate their children's.
Notice the last sentence.
Christ's disciples also believes that they were to deny themselves marriage and be celibate and only to follow god. It's painfully obvious that doesn't "bear fruit" either, and if all humanity did the same it too would cease to exist.
THERE IS NO MENTION OF SATAN IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN IN THE BIBLE! Have you even READ the BIble?
You said, "Wow are you ignorant on this subject. Studies comparing groups of children raised by ho-mos-exual and by heteros-exual 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-exual orientation does not indicate their children's.
Notice the last sentence."
The last sentence you wrote has no actual basis of truth, the truth of the matter is we don't know if $exual orientation of the parents will affect their children, because two gay or two lesbian people can not have children by themselves...they need a third party to do so...And as far as rearing the children, this is not known either...don't make claims that are not true as if they are...
You said, "Christ's disciples also believes that they were to deny themselves marriage and be celibate and only to follow god. It's painfully obvious that doesn't "bear fruit" either, and if all humanity did the same it too would cease to exist."
Actually what the bible says is that someone could better serve the Lord if they were not married but that if you desire to do so it is not bad...Perhaps before you try to quote the bible you should read it first...
@Jeff in California
You said, "THERE IS NO MENTION OF SATAN IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN IN THE BIBLE! Have you even READ the BIble?"
You're right "satan" isn't mentioned but the serpent is and in many other places the aforementioned serpent is also referred to as... you guessed it: satan! So I ask you, have you read the bible? Or did you just read the blog here on CNN where that was mentioned?
Maybe next time you try to make someone else feel foolish you should be careful you don't end up being foolish yourself...
"The last sentence you wrote has no actual basis of truth, the truth of the matter is we don't know if $exual orientation of the parents will affect their children, because two gay or two lesbian people can not have children by themselves...they need a third party to do so...And as far as rearing the children, this is not known either...don't make claims that are not true as if they are..."
I was quoting the experts moron, not opinion like you. Keep trying to justify your prejudice and bigotry.
Yeah, no Satan, just a talking snake AND a 'Garden of Eden' with magic trees and smart fruit. But I'm glad you cleared up that Satan thing, since everything else is so 'true'
the way people practice religion can be wonderful but also enslaving. one cannot really observe and find understanding if fear on being condemned prevents one from getting understanding of what is not traditionally accepted. i thank Don Lemon for coming out. i appreciate honesty. there is a movie by Bill Duke called Cover that really deals with the black community, the issues of being down low, and religion. Would you rather marry a man who really wants another man but marries a woman just to make everyone else happy but is living a lie? i hold religious zealouts responsible for men being down low
Wow. Thanks for reducing my loving, intimate, quality relationship to a pig's snout.
I hope it makes you feel better about yourself. Think about it!!!
Goofed up again. That was for Kerygma.
God told us that a man should not lie with a man and a woman with a woman. He never said that we would not be born with these desires but only that we are to resist them. There is no need to degrade others over there choices, although it is very hard not to do so when it directly harms individuals. Being gay choice or born with it does not change the challenge, just the same as everyone else having to resist the temptation that they crave. God helps me to not think of the bad things, through prayer, but that doesn't mean that those thoughts never come back. I just have to rely on the fact that Christ died to help me with my burdens.
God didn't tell us this but rather Paul. Paul was a man not God.
Holier than though's never cease to amaze me in their stamina when it comes to all out war on human nature!!!!!
I was born a drug addict just like you were born gay, therefore eveybody should stop hating on the way i live and support my habbits. Doing drugs shouldn't be looked down upon in this society. All the drug addicts need to stand together and pray that God make the world okay with doing drugs.
Your posts shows you don't understand anything about gays because you're to lazy to do any research to learn the truth, your ignorance is disgusting.
Right, and like a drug user, gays need to go to therapy to "Straighen" themselves out! Or, at least get some moral training and discover chasity. Everyone has a choice in what they do to their bodies. BUt, poeple need to become educated on right and wrong–and that is not beiing supplied enought by the secular world!
Human beings cannot choose to be either gay or straight. For most people, se-xual orientation emerges in early adolescence without any prior se-xual experience. Psychologists do not consider se-xual orientation to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed.
Being gay is not a sin...performing gay acts on a person of the same gender is a sin.
No, it's not. Male prost-itution or using s-ex to worship a god is a sin.
Gays who are saved and are married can enjoy each others through s-ex. 😉
i agree with "yeah right". people, just like this man, are born gay and the bible clearly states that everyone is born in gods image. being gay is not a sin in any way.
Being gay is performing gay acts.