Join former NBC newsman and "Meet the Press" moderator David Gregory as he probes various religious traditions to better understand his own faith and answer life’s most important questions: who do we want to be and what do we believe?
You describe growing up with a strong sense of Jewish cultural and ethnic identity but no real belief. How has your family history influenced or shaped your faith? My identity was important, but as I look back I realize that I never felt God was present in my life in any meaningful way. When I had difficulties, I realize I felt very alone. I think lacking faith growing up made me more determined to make belief a bigger part of my life with my children. I want them to know who they are, but also what we believe as a family. And with God in our lives, we are never alone. Despite differences in background and belief, what do you perceive to be common aspects of a faith journey? Spiritual longing. Really, it’s a desire to get outside of ourselves a bit. So many of us are looking for a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives that is bigger than our daily existence. Most of us ask ourselves, who are we and who do we want to become? That’s the spiritual longing. It’s also the ability to pull back and take stock. That journey can lead to a closer connection to God.
Do you feel that studying other faiths, particularly Christianity, has connected you more deeply to your Judaism? How so? Studying other traditions deepens my Jewish faith because I see how much they have in common and how much we can learn from each other. I know where I’m centered in faith, but I seek to draw on what inspires me in other traditions, and studying them makes me feel more connected to God. What are the challenges and benefits of interfaith marriage? Interfaith marriage involves compromise and sacrifice. I think the major challenge is understanding how difficult it is for my wife to have given up the faith of her childhood and the traditions she valued so deeply. The benefit for us has been a desire to seek a Jewish identity that seeks universal expression with my wife’s Christian traditions.
What is the difference between being a spiritual person and a religious person? I think many people are uncomfortable with organized religion or religious doctrine. The concept of spiritual journey can be interpreted to mean, a searching and questioning without ever arriving. To me, spirituality is in fact rooted in a religious tradition, but flows from there into a language of connection to God.
How does your faith help you find balance in your life? Do you ever find your faith in conflict with the secular aspects of your life? Faith gives me perspective. I hope it will help me become a more humble person, but humility is a reminder of my weaknesses, and sometimes they win out; it takes work and I don’t always achieve what I’m after. As a journalist dealing with facts, I don’t think there has been tension with faith, as I view a spiritual life as something I’m always aspiring to deepen. There are conflicts, but I try not to dwell on them. I’ve been a more secular person much of my life so becoming a more faith filled person has been a change – a revelatory one.
Do you struggle with the idea of surrendering to God? Why do you think this concept is emphasized more in some religious traditions than others? I struggle less with it. What I have come to believe and feel is that God is active inside of me. I know I am responsible for things in my life, but I’m also more open to receive God’s grace and lessons than ever before. I don’t think surrender is 100 percent.
How has your own faith been a journey? What did it reveal to you about yourself? I’m on a path of discovery. I have recognized that God is at work inside of me and has been for some time. Pursuing faith doesn’t make me better than anyone. It’s a discipline I’m trying to acquire because I think the pursuit could make me better and a fuller person. But it also helps me realize that stumbles are part of the path. And that makes me human.
Why is it so important that we talk openly about our spiritual lives? How we can overcome our resistance to asking each other, “How's your faith?”
I think the question is important because it’s an invitation to examine ourselves and focus on who we would like to become as our best selves. I think people will find once they allow themselves to be vulnerable enough to speak about spiritual longing, they will find how many people are on a similar path. Again, it can be hard, but I’m finding that for so many people faith is really close to the surface. They care deeply about it.