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Kathie Lee Gifford on why she's passionate about fighting biblical illiteracy, 'bad theology' permeating churches

The Way Film
Kathie Lee Gifford behind the scenes on set of "The Way." |

Kathie Lee Gifford is on a mission to instill biblical literacy in the next generation of believers — something she believes is woefully disappearing in an increasingly secularized culture. 

In an interview with The Christian Post, the Emmy Award-winning actress, singer and producer lamented that many Christians are no longer intellectually or spiritually curious; content with the status quo and “going to the same church week after week, singing the same songs, hearing the same stuff coming out of their pastors.”

“And a lot of this stuff that the pastors are teaching is not biblical,” she said. “They think it is because it comes from ‘the Bible,’ in quotes, but it doesn't come from the original Bible, which was written in Hebrew and Greek. Unless you're learning the Bible that way and then memorizing the Bible that way and then quoting it that way, you're not going to have power in your life.”

Satan’s “greatest lie,” Gifford said, is that whatever comes out of translations of the Bibles “is true,” adding: “No. Check your Greek, your Hebrew, because so many lies have been told in the guise of Judaism and Christianity.”

But people are content with believing, for example, that Jesus was born on Dec. 25 or that He was a carpenter, though the ancient text reveals “He was actually a stonemason,” the 68-year-old multi-hyphenate said.

“If we're getting something as easy as that wrong, imagine what else we're getting wrong because we don't know what the Word of God actually says,” Gifford said. 

“I've become pretty annoying to people. Most of the time, they'll say, ‘Just shut up, Kathie.’ It's like, don't mess with my manger. I liked the Christmas story. I like that Jesus was born on December 25.’ … If people have that kind of attitude about the scriptures, that they don't care if the information they're getting is wrong, there's nothing I can say to them … but you don't know what you're missing. And you're missing the power of the Word.” 

When studied correctly, “the Word of God just takes on depth and context and power,” she stressed. 

“And that's my goal in my life today is people would know these things just as somebody taught me,” she said. “I have the responsibility to pass it on, to teach other people. I'm not a biblical scholar. But I study with the best in the world, in the places where all these things actually happened.”

It was this passion for restoring biblical literacy to the masses — something the American Bible Society says has seen an unprecedented drop in recent years — that inspired Gifford’s latest project, "The Way," a symphonic 75-minute storytelling of the Bible, along with the companion book she co-wrote with Rabbi Jason Sobel,The God of the Way: ​​A Journey into the Stories, People, and Faith That Changed the World Forever.

The God of the Way
W Publishing

Gifford shared that about four years ago, she met with singer Nicole C. Mullen and the pair penned an 11-and-a-half minute oratorio called ‘The God Who Sees.” The song's success made Gifford realize: “Maybe this is what I'm supposed to do for the rest of my life. Keep telling these epic stories of these amazing characters in the Bible in a new way that people have never seen before.”

The Fathom Event film, which hits theaters for one night only on Sept. 1, highlights key biblical stories in a modern way, featuring an all-star group of artists including Nicole C. Mullen, Danny Gokey, Jimmie Allen, Larry Gatlin, BeBe Winans and more. 

In turn, The God of the Way delves deeper into the ancient truths presented in the film and explores how the stories of biblical heroes like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob connect with the lives of believers today. 

“The book and movie act in tandem,” Gifford said. “I hope people will start the book first and then see the movie, and then you'll have your own questions after you see it. But most of those answers will be in our book. We spent a couple of years writing it, and it's very detailed, and yet I don't think it's so academic that the layperson would get lost in the weeds.”

Gifford reflected on her own experience being on the receiving end of poor theology that has caused “so much evil” throughout the history of Christianity. She shared how, when in an abusive marriage to her first husband, she was told by church leaders that she needed to be “submissive” based on an incorrect interpretation of Ephesians 5.

“In my first marriage, I was married to a man who didn't want anything to do with me in any way, sexually, romantically, didn't even want me in the same room with him for seven years,” she recalled. “I was married to this man. And in counseling, I was told I was the problem because I was not submitting to him.”

But “submissive” in the biblical text, she explained, actually means to “reach down and lift up,” not be “subservient” or “let him treat you like garbage or rape or control you.”

“We as women are supposed to reach down and lift up in loving support of this gift that God has given us, our husbands,” she said. 

“If I had known what the Scripture actually said, I [would’ve] said, ‘I am married to a man who doesn't want me to lean down and lift up. He doesn't want to be in my life. So what am I supposed to do about that?’ You know, eventually, that man left, abandoned me and left me and divorced me, and that was the only kind thing he ever did for me. But that was a lie from Satan.”

Gifford is one of the most recognizable faces in entertainment, starring in film and television for years and co-hosting both “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee” alongside Regis Philbin for 15 years and NBC's “Today” show alongside Hoda Kotb. She’s also written five New York Times bestselling books.

But Gifford, who became a Christian after seeing the Billy Graham-produced film “The Restless Ones” at age 12, has never been shy about her faith, something she credits to God giving her the gift of “boldness.” She said she’s always viewed wherever she is — whether it be Hollywood or overseas — as her mission field. 

“I've always had a boldness because I've always understood grace. I've always understood what Jesus did for me and how He came to save me for eternal life,” she said. “And I've always been so grateful to Him that my attitude always was, ‘How can I not tell people about Him?’ If we had the cure for cancer, wouldn't we tell every single person that had cancer what the cure was? Of course we would. …We as Christians have the cure for the malignancy of the soul, and his name is Yeshua. And when we don't share that with people, we are responsible for withholding that from them.”

Increasingly, in recent years, she said, she’s felt God calling her to use her gifts to share the Gospel with a culture — and a Church — that has become increasingly “woke” and gotten further away from biblical principles. 

“I don't want to live in guilt. I cannot live with thinking that I had an opportunity to share Jesus with somebody, and I didn't do it because I was afraid,” she said.

“Fear is the other thing that Satan uses more than any other thing to keep us quiet. to silence us for fear of losing our jobs, but you know, I never ever cared. I said my attitude was you're gonna fire me for sharing what my faith is, then fire me. You're not my boss. He is. And it'll be a badge of honor for me if I'm fired because I wouldn't bow to the wokeness of things. I am awakened in my soul by Lord Jesus, and I'll never embrace anything that is not of Him knowingly.”

The speaker and author warned about false teachers who fail to preach repentance or misconstrue biblical teachings and insist on “perpetuating myths.” 

“Throw away your Bibles that are that are not true,” she said. “Don't even be tempted to pick them up. Certainly don't memorize them. You're powerless, and Satan laughs. … It makes me angry. … I'm not mad at people. It's not their fault. I didn't know this stuff, either. I'm mad at teachers that know better or should know better.”

And this “bad, bad theology” promoted by many, she said, is even permeating the lyrics in modern worship music — an issue several leading worship artists have addressed in recent years. 

“I can't even sing half the songs that are in worship music now because it's bad theology. It's just not true,” Gifford said.

As she looks ahead to the future, the entertainer said she’s not working toward Emmy or Grammy nominations — “that stuff never meant anything to me” — she said, but using her gifts to bring others to Christ. 

“The greatest joy in my life is knowing that God used me in a person's life,” she said. “When somebody would come to my dressing room at the 'Today' show, crawling and hurting, and asked me to pray for them, and then they come to know Jesus in the process … maybe nobody else ever knew that that happened, but they knew it and God knew it. And that's what kept me doing it year after year after year, until the Lord finally said, ‘Start telling the stories in a different way, Kathie, that had never been told before; tell it through music, and through beauty and the visuals.”

Tickets for “The Way” can be purchased online here and at participating theater box offices. For more information on the film, visit thewaymusic.com.

Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: leah.klett@christianpost.com

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