Discussing his new book, the Harvard minister calls for modesty in religious debate and decries the domestication of the Christian God.

Interview by Lisa Miller

Newsweek Web Exclusive
Nov 10, 2007

Peter GomesIn his new book The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus the Rev. Peter Gomes pushes Christians to see beyond what he says is the “domesticated” view of the Christian Lord and embrace instead the gospel message of radical good and radical justice. Gomes decries the slogan “What would Jesus do?” as superficial and self-justifying, preferring instead “What would Jesus have me do?” “Unlike Dr. Phil, [Jesus] does not dispense free advice on television,” writes Gomes, “so it falls to us to try to figure out what we ought to do in our time, with our own skills and problems, based on what we think about Jesus.” The iconoclastic Gomes is the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard University and the minister of Memorial Church in Harvard Yard. NEWSWEEK’s Lisa Miller spoke with him. Excerpts:

What do you think is wrong with the public conversation about religion today?
Rev. Peter Gomes: Well, most of it is conducted quite frankly at too high a decibel level, and it is not particularly well informed. It’s a lot of shouting and not very much substance, and it tends to give religion a very bad name.

What’s the solution?
I think the solution is a certain amount of modesty, which is a very old-fashioned word, in making claims that we don’t know very much about, and with respect to traditions that are not our own. I am unabashedly a Christian, but most people who talk about Christianity don’t know very much about what they’re talking about.