Peter Gomes is an American Baptist minister who has served in The Memorial Church at Harvard University since 1970. Gomes is also the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and is the Pusey Minister in The Memorial Church. Gomes is commonly regarded as one of the most distinguished preachers in America. He was named Clergy of the Year in 1998 by Religion in American Life and offered prayers in the inaugurations of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
Educated at Bates College and the Harvard Divinity School, Revered Gomes alsoholds thirty-six honorary degrees. He is the author of numerous books on the Bible, including the national best-sellers TheGood Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart and Sermons:Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living.
Question: Does Christianity answer all of your questions?
Peter Gomes: Well Christianity, strangely enough, does answer all my questions. I mean, it’s the lens through which I view reality. It’s how I make judgments. It’s how I respond to others. It’s how I define reality to all intents and purposes. The Christian myth makes sense to me. It provides a world that’s as orderly and stable to me as the . . . as the Greek myths did for the Greeks and the Romans did for the Romans. I . . . I don’t live in a dark world. I mean, I don’t . . . I don’t live in the sense that everything is going to go up in flames, and we’re all destined and doomed, and terrible things are happened . . . happening. But I do believe we live in what the scriptures refer to as a fallen world. Christian theology speaks of it as a world that has not achieved its ideals. And we are struggling, and moving towards them, and trying to manage as best we can. And certain ideas and ideals have been set before us. The person of Jesus Christ, for me, is such an idea and an ideal. I believe He really existed, but that doesn’t diminish the ideological power or the . . . the sense of imagination that is employed. And I aspire to live my life in the light of what I understand that truth to be – a truth which I have received through the wisdom of thousands of other smarter and cleverer people who existed before me. I admit to being a child of the Western Christian experience, and I embrace it. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m not embarrassed by it. And I don’t deny my dependency upon it. It’s the vocabulary with which I work.
When I travel, as I often do, through Western Europe and I look at those great cathedrals and those monuments, they all speak to me. They all makes sense to me. It’s describing a world in which I did not live, but which still lives for me. And that’s very important. Part of my work, I suppose, is trying to call back, as best I can, the life of that world and the people that are far removed from it. I’m much comforted by the … the remark G.K. … once said that “Christianity is not a religion that has been tried and failed. It is a religion that has been wanted and never really tried.” And my job is to try it, and to get other people to try it on for size and hope for the best.
Recorded on: 6/12/07