Kathie Lee Gifford no longer yearns for the bright lights of morning television. She just wants to bring you to Jesus, she told The Washington Times.
Ms. Gifford just published “The God of the Way: A Journey into the Stories, People, and Faith That Changed the World Forever,” co-authored with messianic Rabbi Jason Sobel, her second major book on Jewish-Christian faith.
The book came out alongside “The Way,” an oratorio featuring five gospel music stars and tracing the themes of grace and redemption throughout the Bible. After screening in theaters on Sept. 1, it will be available on video and streaming.
The question: What’s a “nice Jewish girl” from Bowie, Maryland — born Kathie Lee Epstein — doing with this evangelical religious material?
“I’m following my Messiah,” she said in a telephone interview. “That’s what I’m doing. I have believed in [Jesus] since I was 12 years old.”
Ms. Gifford said she came to Christian faith after watching “The Restless Ones,” a 1965 movie from evangelist Billy Graham’s World Wide Pictures studio. Though contemporary when it was released, she acknowledged “it didn’t age well.”
She said, “I showed it to my children like 15 years ago, [and] they looked at me like ‘Mom, this is horrible.’”
Her faith now, she said, came “to the point that I can’t breathe without experiencing His presence, and that’s what a walk with our Messiah should be.”
Ms. Gifford added, “I’ve never separated the secular from the spiritual. … I’m just devoted to telling the world the truth that the Old Testament is not [only] for the Jews and the New Testament is for the Christians.”
Instead, she said, the Bible “is one magnificent love story” of a creator God “who made us all, and loves us all.”
Ms. Gifford said her goal is to transcend the Western understanding of Christianity and connect believers with a Bible that she said “was written by Middle Easterners for Middle Easterners” and to view it from that perspective.
Ms. Gifford, a singer, songwriter and author, is probably best known as the longtime co-host of “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee” and for her 11-year run on the fourth hour of the “Today” show paired with Hoda Kotb.
The shift to faith author came shortly before her departure from the Today Show with the 2018 publication of her first book co-written with Rabbi Sobel, “The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi: My Journey into the Heart of Scriptural Faith and the Land Where It All Began.”
A bestseller, the book generated enough revenue — “far more successful than I ever dreamed it would be,” she recalled — to establish what Ms. Gifford called a “kingdom account” to fund Christian projects. She spent half a million dollars, she said, to create an 11.5-minute film, “The God Who Sees,” an extended music video featuring a song she’d written with gospel artist Nicole C. Mullen.
“I put it on YouTube the day that I left the Today Show,” she recalled of its April 5, 2019 release. She added that it had “millions and millions and millions of downloads. And it continues today to have an extraordinary reaction. People say ‘I was gonna kill myself today. But I saw this, I somehow stumbled upon this, and I realize now that God does see me.’”
Her goal now is to convey “these extraordinary stories in the Bible that people think never happened, but they did.”
Ms. Gifford said a “new paradigm” is needed to bring the ancient story to a contemporary audience.
“If I am disappointed in the church today, it’s that we just keep trying the same old thing and it doesn’t work anymore,” she said. “Church attendance is dying. People are leaving in droves. People are leaving what they call organized religion. I think that that is a good thing. I would like to give them something else to believe in, which is the word of God.”