Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Reverend Professor Peter J. Gomes, Eminent Gay Theologian, Dies at 68

(Fred Field/Harvard News Office photo)

Plymouth, Massachusetts – One of America’s best-known preachers and theologians, and arguably the most famous out gay scholar in the nation, Peter J. Gomes died February 28 of a brain aneurysm and heart attack. He was 68 years old. For three and a half decades, Gomes was a member of the faculty of Harvard Divinity School, and served as Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church as well as Plummer Professor of Christian Morals. A New York Times Bestselling Author, Gomes will be remembered as the person who put the Bible’s teachings within reach of an intelligent, progressive secular audience with his widely acclaimed book, The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart (HarperOne: 2002). The son of a Cape Verdean father and a Bostonian mother, Gomes graduated from Bates College in 1965 and Harvard Divinity School in 1968. As he rose to prominence in Harvard, African Americans rejoiced to have a scholar and preacher so well situated in the academy.  In recognition of the role he fulfilled in American black life, Henry Louis Gates featured Gomes in the Public Broadcasting System documentary,African American Lives 2. A life-long Republican until 2006 (having offered prayers at the inaugurations of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan), Gomes became a registered Democrat in order to vote for Deval Patrick, the first African American Governor in Massachusetts history. In 1991, Gomes shocked the public by coming out openly as a gay man during a campus controversy over homosexuality–a story he tells eloquently inThe Good Book. Upon announcing his sexual orientation in order to support Harvard gay and lesbian students, Gomes was targeted by a hail of criticism.  His defense of himself was forceful, measured, and laser-sharp: “Many of my critics, chiefly from within the religious community, asked if I read the same Bible they did, and if I did, how then could I possibly reconcile my position with that of scripture?  When arguments failed, anathemas were hurled and damnations promised.  The whole incident confirmed what had long been my suspicion.  Fear was at the heart of homophobia, as it was at the heart of racism, and as with racism,religion—particularly the Protestant evangelical kind that had nourished me—was the moral fig leaf that covered naked prejudice” [The Good Book, p. 166]. Throughout the rest of his life, Gomes combatted fear and advocated for the equality of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Among his other New York Times Bestselling books are The Good Life: Truths That Last in Times of Need (2003), and most recently The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What’s So Good About the Good News? (2007). Gomes suffered a stroke in December 2010, and was recently transferred to a rehabilitation center in his beloved hometown of Plymouth. News reports suggested that he was planning to return to Harvard this spring, and fulfill his career until his announced retirement in 2012. As the Harvard Crimson says, “He maintained a tremendous presence at Harvard as well as around the country.” More particularly for the LGBTQ community, Professor Gomes’s voice of faithful sanity and his incarnated presence as a person who was both black and gay will be sorely missed. Ave atque vale, Professor Gomes!  “Hail and fare you well!”

March 1, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Book excerpts, gay men, Harvard University, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, Massachusetts, Peter J. Gomes "The Good Book", Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Osteen Broadcasts Fundamentalist Homophobia on CNN

Joel Osteen, best-selling author and religious entertainer, says “Homosexuality is a sin” in an interview with Piers Morgan which will air on Wednesday, January 26.  “Piers Morgan Tonight” previewed the Wednesday interview two days early in which Osteen, the pastor of mammoth Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, toes a fundamentalist, homophobic line on the interpretation of the Bible. In response to Morgan’s questions about his condemnation of LGBTQ Americans, Osteen retreats into the same literalist interpretation of a very few passages of scripture that right wing preachers have used to bash gay people for generations:

MORGAN: Say a friend of mine like Elton John watching this at home, who with his partner – a civil partner, David Furnish – have just had a surrogate child which was born on Christmas day. They’re going to be pretty angry what they hear. They’re going to think who are you to call them a sinner.

J. OSTEEN: Yes.

MORGAN: But why are they sinners in your eyes?

J. OSTEEN: Well, it’s strictly back to what the scripture says. I mean, I can’t grab one part and say God wants you to be blessed and live an abundant life, and not grab the other part that says, you know what? You know, live that kind of life. So it comes back to the scripture. I’m not the judge. You know, God didn’t tell me to go around judging everybody.

Osteen tries to have it both ways in the interview with Morgan. Though he clearly condemns gay and lesbian people for parenting children, seeking marriage in monogamous relationships, and for forming same-sex loving families, Osteen claims that he is not a “gay basher.”  The distinction will surely be lost on queer folk and their families when the widely popular preacher has just clobbered them with the Bible.  “The scriptures shows that it’s a sin,” Osteen says to Morgan in the CNN interview. “But you know, I’m not one of those that are out there to bash homosexuals and tell them that they’re terrible people and all of that. I mean, there are other sins in the Bible too…I don’t believe homosexuality is God’s best for a person’s life.”  Osteen has repeatedly peddled his own brand of “soft homophobia” as recently as November 2010 on television shows like ABC’s “The View,” as previously reported by the Unfinished Lives Project. Osteen betrays a simplistic form of Bible reading and interpretation that begins from a heterosexist and homophobic set of beliefs alien to the vast majority of reputable scholars and Bible teachers throughout the world. The Houston mega-church preacher apparently relies on a literalistic, legalistic reading of two texts in the entire Bible to arrive at his claim that God considers homosexuality a “sin.”  In the Hebrew Testament, only two passages in the priestly code of Leviticus (selected verses in Leviticus 18 and 20), and one primary text from Paul’s letter to the Romans which is actually about idolatry and not homosexuality in any modern sense (Romans 1:26-28) are available to Osteen and his ilk to make such a universally condemnatory argument against a marginalized group of people. The consensus of progressive and moderate Jewish and Christian biblical scholars is that fundamentalist interpretations of these passages are off base at best, and dangerous at worst. Opinions driven by cultural bias and read back into the Bible such as Osteen’s have proven to be used to justify their religious intolerance and violence by those who attack LGBTQ people both verbally and physically. For a responsible and accessible book on the Bible that teaches biblical respect for LGBTQ people, see Dr. Peter J. Gomes, “The Good Book.” While Osteen seems to think he can appeal to his conservative base with condemnatory statements like those on “Piers Morgan Tonight,” and at the same time soften his rhetoric enough to convince the gullible that he is the very nicest of gay bashers (so they can be “nice” gay bashers, too!), his use of the Bible is irresponsible, uninformed, and contributes to the suffering of millions of people whose only offense is whom they love.

January 25, 2011 Posted by | bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, CNN, Elton John, gay bashing, gay men, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lakewood Church, Lesbian women, Media Issues, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Peter J. Gomes "The Good Book", religious hate speech, religious intolerance, soft homophobia, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

   

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