Harvard professor PETER J. GOMES was born on this date (d: 2011); Born in Plymouth Massachusetts from a Cape Verdean father and a mother from Boston and Gomes, he was baptized Catholic. He graduated from Bates College in 1965 and Harvard Divinity School in 1968.

Gomes was a leading expert on early American religion, and regarding ancient texts, he frequently maintained that “one can read into the Bible almost any interpretation of morality…for its passages had been used to defend slavery and the liberation of slaves, to support racism, anti-Semitism and patriotism, to enshrine a dominance of men over women, and to condemn homosexuality as immoral,” as paraphrased by the New York Times. Gomes urged believers to grasp the spirit, not the letter, of scriptural passages that he said had been misused to defend racism, anti-Semitism and sexism and to attack homosexuality and abortion. He offered interpretations that he asserted transcended the narrow context of modern prejudices.

Widely regarded as one of America’s most distinguished preachers, Professor Gomes fulfilled preaching and lecturing engagements throughout the U.S. and Great Britain. His books, The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart and Sermons, the Book of Wisdom for Daily Living, were New York Times and national best-sellers. The Right Reverend Lord Robert Runcie, 102nd Archbishop of Canterbury, England, ecclesiastical head of the Anglican Communion said of Gomes’ The Good Book that it “offers a crash course in biblical literacy in a nuanced but easy-to-understand style” which is also “lively” Henry Louis Gates, Jr. called it “Easily the best contemporary book on the Bible for thoughtful people

Gomes published in total ten volumes of sermons, as well as numerous articles and papers. He was well-known for many of his sermons, but particularly for one he delivered in the immediate wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

His The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus, includes extensive commentary and observation on the interrelations of Church and State throughout history and particularly in recent U.S. history. In September 2008 he appeared on The Colbert Report to promote his book. During this interview, he claimed gospels are “a dime a dozen.”

Gomes surprised many when he publicly revealed in 1991 that he was Gay, and from that time became an advocate for wider acceptance of homosexuality in American society. In the case of his own sexual practices, he stated that he remained celibate. “I now have an unambiguous vocation — a mission — to address the religious causes and roots of homophobia,” he declared. “I will devote the rest of my life to addressing the ‘religious case’ against Gays.”