The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Religious studies teacher practices what he teaches

Bob Goss, CSUN professor of religious studies, began his sermon on a recent Sunday at the Metropolitan Community Church in the Valley in North Hollywood by blessing those who couldn’t make it to church due to illnesses and praying for those who have not yet found their path.

Special Education graduate student Lissa Moreno said he is a compassionate person who has a good sense of what it is to serve Christ, to teach and to be out in the community serving people who sometimes don’t get served the way other people do, people that are shunned out of society,. He reaches out to those communities and lends a helping hand, said Moreno.

Moreno, who is also Minister of Celebrations at MCC, said Goss is a little different as a teacher than as a pastor.

“Not in a good or a bad way,” said Moreno, who sat in on the Buddhism class Goss teaches at CSUN. “It’s just that he is able to really connect very well with students and he has a lot that helps them understand very complex material that can be very confusing.”

He is very much an interactive teacher in the classroom, she said.

Patrick Nichelson, chair and professor of the Religious Studies Department, said students often walk up to him and start talking about what a “great professor” Goss is.

Nichelson said besides being a great professor, Goss is also a highly qualified specialist in comparative religion.

Goss graduated from Harvard University with a doctorate in comparative religion, with an emphasis in Tibetan Buddhism and Christian theology.

Goss, a second-semester CSUN professor, who teaches an introductory course on religion and another in Buddhism, is a self-identified Buddhist Christian, theologian, pastor and midwife.

“I am really happy where I am at right now. I really care about people,” Goss said. “My parents love me and they’ve been there for me, healing me from the wounds that I have experienced.”

Before becoming senior pastor at MCC in the Valley, Goss was involved with MCC Greater St. Louis for nine years as a part-time theologian and clergy.

Al Moreno, a sign language interpreter at CSUN and member of MCC, said Goss has taken the church into a fresher outlook. “Do to his preaching and teachings at the alter,” Moreno said. “we have had people just show up.”

The church has a lot of love to project and to give out, Moreno said.

Patrick Kilian and Harrison White, who have been searching for a place to worship for over a year, and who for the first time attended MCC in the Valley Sunday (Feb 26), agreed church “is a loving and accepting place with a positive message.”

Goss, who has been teaching at the university level for 12 years, said he thought that he was happy in terms of teaching full-time at a university and doing part-time ministry: In the past few years, however, after spending more time in the ministry, he says he enjoys the opposite.

Goss said he is in the most unique place in the world right now because he ministers to people who have suffered incredible marginalization and alienation: “Hispanics, African-American, transgender and leathered people in his congregation.”

The leather community in Los Angeles is the largest in the world Goss said.

“Talk about what would Jesus do?” he said. “Jesus would be out there with those who have been marginalized and castaway and the ‘throw away peoples.”

“It’s a very accepting, very loving and very warm church,” Moreno said, who is among the many heterosexuals, who attend the church every Sunday. “It feels like coming home.”

The only downside to being a pastor Goss said, is that as part of being a part of other peoples lives, you have to deal with their tragedies, sadness and sorrows.

“But that is something that everyone has to deal with,” he said. “And it’s a lot easier when there is someone there to help you through it.”

As a person who has seen death in his generation, where many people died of AIDS, including his long-term partner of 16 years, Goss said you reach a point where you see yourself as a midwife: “birthing a person into the afterlife.”

“And I am one who believes there is an afterlife,” he said.

In May 22, 1992, six hours apart, both his brother and his partner died of AIDS, “an extremely painful situation,” Goss said.

After seeing many people die from AIDS with unresolved issues, Goss now helps them to be at peace with themselves and to resolve all the issues and baggage they carry.

Goss said the process of learning to die is to be at peace with oneself, to learn to love oneself, to really care to and to learn to let go.

“I’ve learned that from not only Christianity, but from Buddhism,” he said. “Especially the Tibetan book of the dead. I’ve learned a lot in terms of learning to let go and realize that we’re dying every moment.”

Goss co-founded Food Outreach, an HIV service organization that delivers frozen meals and food supplements to people living with HIV.

The project began when Goss and his friends would meet for prayer and tried to fatten other friends who were suffering from HIV.

Goss has authored and co-authored seven books, including Queering Christ, Dead, But Not Lost: Grief Narratives in Religious Traditions and Gay Catholic Priests and Clerical Sexual Misconduct: Breaking the Silence.

Goss is working on his eighth book, a queer commentary on every book of the Bible, assembled with several of the “brightest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender scholars in the world,” he said.

Goss said their task was to write on each book of the bible, Hebrew and Christian scriptures, from the perspective of various gender orientations. The book, due out early spring 2007, is a way of keeping a balance, he said. The different translations of the Bible that have been printed “are not the literal translation of the original scripture,” Goss said.

One of the things that Goss said angers is many religions have taken six verses out of the bible and are using them “for their own social agenda,” to deny gay and lesbian rights and to even deny the bible for anything around women and women’s rights, he said.

One of Goss’s major commitments is to deflect the violence around the Bible in order to make it more inclusive.

“The text (Bible) has been used to support slavery in our history,” Goss said. “It has been used for violence and abuse.”

Carol Morales can be reached at

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