The Plummer Professor Of Christian Morals, RIP

A reader writes:

Don't know if you have much familiarity with Reverend Gomes, but considering all that you write about, I thought that the passing of this interesting gentleman would be of interest.

Yes, of course I knew Peter and loved him and, frankly, am still absorbing this news. I knew him Gomes when he was closeted and when he burst through that stifling prison. There weren't that many gay conservative Christians at Harvard back in the 1980s - so we clasped the sherry glasses and kept each other close. And, of course, as his beloved Republican party became the bastion of proud gay-fearing ignorance it has become, he shifted his allegiance, but not his values.

I listened to his sermons (he was born to preach!) and read his books (which are as profound as they are effortless to read). But you had to be with Peter to get him. It was an endless series of anecdotes and jokes and more sherry and references to the Queen Mother and more sherry. I thought I had left Oxford behind only to find it thriving in Peter's cheerful Anglophile chatter. When you saw him coming, you knew that you too had to perform, joust, joke, pun, if you wanted even to hope to keep up with him. There were times when I contemplated going to his weekly socials at Sparks House and realized I wasn't quite up to the repartee that day.

He was always in some version of drag - clerical, academic, leather - and at the same time so deeply learned and, yes, holy in such an idiosyncratic and entertaining fashion that I'm amazed God didn't call him earlier - if only for the conversation. This is a quote I will never forget:

"I am a Christian who happens as well to be gay ... Those realities, which are unreconcilable to some, are reconciled in me by a loving God."

Has it ever been more succinctly put? And this is a truth especially close to my heart:

"[My mother] always told me that I must invent my own reality. Reality will not conform to you. You must invent your own and then conform to it. So I did. I am an authentic and an original. ... I will not allow myself to be known simply as an African American, no more than I would allow myself to be known as gay or conservative. They are all bits and pieces of a work in progress. I am a child of God."

Some background here. Fallows says Gomes "possessed a combination of wit and kindness not often found in the same person." Henry Louis Gates, Jr. shares his thoughts. I only really kept in close touch in my Harvard days, but the knowledge that he is no longer here stings no less. He made the world less lonely. And he was in himself a world.

(Photo by C. Fernsebner. More here.)