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 | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Reverend Professor Peter J. Gomes, Eminent Gay Theologian, Dies at 68

   

%d bloggers like this: