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tv   After Words with David Gregory  CSPAN  October 10, 2015 10:02pm-11:01pm EDT

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>> david, telling me how you came to the tight ol' your book o'how's your faith. >> guest: actually a question o''s pods to in by president bush. he asked me the question numerous items as i got the job. heard through a mutual friend that is was studying with someone who -- erica brown, a modern oar orthodox woman and i was trying to deepen my faith so i was neating with him in the eval office, and talking about the economy. he was giving me advice on our to weather public scrutiny and when he says, gregory, how is you san --ing your faith? i fondest be such a penetrating question. people might be startled the would ask a reporter covering the white house that question but i never found it inappropriate. there was context. he heard if was studying. and i said to him, i said, i'm
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studying bible. i'm trying to deepen my faith, better connect to my wife's christian traditions. i think it can only make me a better husband and father. and he shared his own path. talked about reading the bible every day and it strengthened him and he relied on his strength and his i -- belief in god through the darkest days of a his presidency. so his own spiritual journey, his own path of faith was something that inspired me. >> host: it's not very usual >> every adjust -- offputting. how how of have you found the
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reaction to your talking so openly about your faith? >> first i would respectfully not accept the liberal label that you gave me. >> host: i'm talking about the journalist -- >> guest: yes, fair enough. i have got an bad reaction at all. i think there's people who may not a be used to it. i'm not at nbc anymore so i'm not kind of walking down the halls with it, but even when i was people were respectful of it. i think you're right in that to talk about it very openly as something that takes people aback, either because it's not their thing, they're not people of faith or the think it's kind of culturally anathema to speak of faith so openly, and i don't think that's the case. i'm still a journalist. i understand what that means. there's lots of journalists who are people of faith in washington and beyond. but again i don't -- i'm not arguing the point about that it seems a bit up usual, and it's
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unusual i'm writing a book that's not about politics or media or my time at nbc or the bush years. it's below to me what is the larger downie of life, which iing asks the question, who am i trying to become? and being on a path of strengthening our relationship with god. so, it just feels good. it's kind of would -- who i am. who i have been comfortable becoming. ...
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to spend more time in a way that i don't know i could have weather was doing additional interviews and really kind of going down the road in reflection to add to it. but even my leaving nbc as a small portion of this book. i have no interest in settling scores are doing anything like that. this is really something that happened well before. >> host: so how is your faith now lacks. >> guest: i think it's strong and getting stronger. >> host: how is he getting stronger? >> guest: i think that i've grown in spirit.
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i think i have, i understand what it is to know god. after friend and i write about in the book rabbi larry hoff who says he doesn't like the question do you believe in god? is like asking someone if they believe in love? i feel like i have a stronger relationship with god. i feel more grounded in faith. we are just learning that it allows me to try to be more humble, to see my weaknesses and to see my flaws and to really be on a path where you put some important things and formed the idea that there are expectations of me that i think have a meaning and purpose in my life and those are things that are present so when those ways is
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not a project for me. as cardinal dolan told me it's shouldn't be a project it should be an act of love. i'm well into that act of love and trying to go deeper. >> you did at one point say you felt it was a bit of a project that you were just sort of going at it and trying to be the best you could possibly be. >> my teacher erica said to me this idea that you are going to start learning and reading and studying and you are somehow going to get mastery over this, she said that is what you have to cast away. there is no mastery and that is what it is. for me on a daily basis is a discovery. i like to pray in the morning and i was reading something this morning in psalm 23 which is so
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well-known. the lord is my shepherd i shall not want but there's a line in there he renews my life and that to me is the banner headline of the day. cochran is my life. it's the jewish new year and i'm looking for a clean slate. i think that's what it is. to me it's daily discovery. that's a truth that speaks to me. that's why my faith is gone deeper which is to feel that antonelli to rally around the truth like that that's what i find is humbling. >> host: you say you should nasa question do you believe in god? what is the question you should ask about god? who are what is god to you? >> guest: let me start i saying i think the question for me, because one of the things i want to be clear about and talking about this but this is my own path. i am a public person but i'm not
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prescribing. i'm not a faith leader. for me the question is where is god? where is god in the situation? our friends tim shriver always poses that question, where is god and i think opening your heart to the presence of god is and was the question for me to do so through prayer, to try to listen to the scripture as well as leading the scripture, listen to god. so i think for me as jewish god is unfathomable and away and yet a seeking god to see god's face as the psalms says. and i feel god is a presence in my life someone who's bears
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witness into my life who has expectations of me but who is close. whether in joy or in pain or through personal failure i feel that god is close. >> host: do you have an identification with a personal god? do you think that there is a god who says hey david here's what i think you should do or should you shouldn't do this or i'm with you. i'm here for you. do you pray? who do you pray to and what do you pray? >> guest: i pray to god. your question is interesting. do i believe in a personal god? personal and that i feel like i am beginning to know god. you were the one they gave me this great line which i have
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used and i will credit you which is i don't know when you don't know either. i don't know what i wrestle with things. is there personal god? i don't know. i am jewish. i don't believe in jesus christ as my lord and savior as christians do. i am inspired by the teachings of jesus and studying christianity more. i haven't worked all that out yet. i think god reveals things. i think he reveals things through sacred text which christians rely on through the bible through the hebrew bible and certainly christians through the new testament. there is a lot that is revealed in terms of what god expects. i pray to god.
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i pray for forgiveness and i pray for patience. i pray for his faithfulness in me to do certain things to do things in my life and to become better and to hold me accountable. to help me be the person that i was created to be. >> host: do you pray for things? >> guest: yeah i mean i pray that he will watch and protect my children, to bless us and are coming in are going and i don't know that i've arrived at a full understanding of whether i believe. i obviously believe in free will and the bible says it did around me before you curse choose life. i certainly understand the people have free will and there's evil in the world than
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people make all kinds of wrong moral choices are can make evil choices. whether they're still a possibility of choosing life and the possibility of production. >> host: when you say. for the safety and well-being of your children do you expect in some way your prayers might help to keep them safe? >> guest: i don't know. i guess i hope so. i put it out there. i think again the question for me and for my family is where is god? god is the love that surrounds us. the idea that we can feel god is close it is very important and i want that for my children. i guess it helps my soul that i
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can express the vulnerability of my children out in the world that i ask for them to be watched. >> host: you talking about about the question of suffering and how does anyone explain an all loving god, and all powerful god and still explain suffering in the world? how do you explain that? to be wrestled with that? >> guest: i still do and i don't intend to have those answers. i think about jewish went to the holocaust for whom faith was lost in to ask about great britain. why is it that they don't like to talk about god very much. he said god used to toxic a people but the holocaust change that and i think it's a titanic
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struggle. in a way i think god i haven't dealt with the kind of lost or tragedy in my life of such difficulty. i guess during yom kippur and rosh hashanah jews pray at home and it is the refrain of who will live and who shall die and who by fire by earthquake in who shall have anxiety and who shall be tranquil and who shall be troubled. the truth is that we are all all of those things. there was an interpretation of that that is basically i will live and i will die. i will be troubled and i will be anxious. my understanding of the walk in the world is there is joy and there is pain and god is present through all of these things. we are not in this inanimate
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world of just molecules. there is love and there is god and bad things are still going to happen and people are still going to make horrible choices. god is present and all things that happen god is weeping. i like to still believe that i'm not sure of it but i like to believe there is a grand design in the world that makes things okay. >> host: yuran father was jewish and your mother was catholic figure mother was an alcoholic. you chose judaism over catholicism. >> i didn't so much choose it. we believe we are who we are so there is that. it was also a path that my parents decided on for my sister and me. my sister was baptized but i was
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always --. >> host: was it because your mother was not involved in your religious life more than anything? >> guest: for my mother caroline her difficulty, she was raised catholic and i was all she knew. my dad or mom's first child was born stillborn. they were in a catholic hospital and my mother had for her in an orchard experience. i think she found it very difficult to handle so losing a child really crestor spirit in a way and took her as she describes it took her faith along with it. i think before that my parents were negotiating and compromising. our firstborn child might be christian catholic and so one
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and that's ultimately how they were planning to do with us but i think for my mother that kind kind -- kind of came at a time where she had just lost her faith and she had lost any belief in a catholic church. that's still the case for her. she's in her cover program that gives her deep spiritual life today stronger than it ever was and deep belief. >> host: then you married someone who was not jewish who was protestant and you decided you would raise your children jewish and that's your wife agreed to that although she was religious herself. you have written about how you felt in some ways that you were selfish and insisting that the children be raised jewish and
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that's the religion was pushed to the side. later he came to realize how much of a sacrifice she had made why did she do that? why did she say okay i would agree to that when she wasn't a religious person or south? >> guest: i think she asks herself the question still. i think sally at the time, it's interesting to me that it wasn't more for negotiation. i think she was very gracious about it. this is important for him and a strong sense of identity and i think she felt at the time i still have my traditions i will be able to hold onto them and we will be able to manage it. i think it was until we went along having kids when she realized this is a lot i have given up. she describes it now having thought about it and you are
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familiar with our synagogue temple, such a beautiful thing where he blesses non-jewish spouses and the entire congregation rises and he thanks them for us and it is voice for making the sacrifice. she gets very emotional as does everybody indeed. it was a gift to me that it would be good for children and she made the decision to do it. ..
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whether it is good deeds we try to do aa family that we are speaking up and trying to live up to values that are really part of that path. >> you think it's been good for the children and good for the family and the marriage that made the sacrifice or do you think it might have been better
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or incorporated both you think there are so many now and her faith marriages i think something like one half of all our marrying outside the faith this is becoming more and more of an issue. >> with the real inclusion of the christian tradition. that is anathema to do that as a family as well so a lot i look at the grandparents except for my father.
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they are not readily available in our homes. all along i had really tried to get out of myself enough to realize this is a big deal. how can we pay tribute to honor her and her traditions. to make her feel excluded that is a very painful thing and i can understand the pain.
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>> you do have christmas trees and easter egg hunts? [laughter] >> guest: yes. and by the way i go out of my way to talk to the kids about the religious significance of christmas and easter and why as a family we do not deserve them or celebrate them in that way it may be a more secular holiday we celebrate them that way we celebrate them in a way that people are deeply respectful of what it means for a christian to celebrate the birth of jesus and the resurrection.
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the moderator of meet the press you are going to get fired or maybe not in back and forth but it got really ugly. number one in the ratings for the first three years.
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i think that we were trying to figure out. how to evolve the program to make it my own. he had such a big shadow that was so long over the programming over frankly the genre of the sunday morning shows. it came to the place was a lot of public scrutiny and there were a lot of internal leaks at nbc that could only come from within and it finally got to the point where i said what i understand washington and when there's blood in the water you have to shortly after because this is becoming too much about me and it is detracting from what we are trying to do. it sure felt like they basically
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wouldn't support me over the long term so i wasn't fired .-full-stop what i was going to get fired if i wasn't fired it felt like i was going to get fired at some point so it was best for me to call the question. >> host: why did that happen though because you were still doing very well. >> guest: i don't have all those answers. it was a business decision that i didn't agree with naturally but it was my decision to make and you know this town better than i do in the business it can be tough and it can be a lot of people of the highest levels it was a rough ending you wish now looking back.
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>> host: you may reputation for being arrogant and you said yourself and sort of push people away. i was very successful early. i started on television at 18 or 19. i think people felt. some people thought i was arrogant. my wife, you know, is very successful.
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they knew me to be committed to my family and others thought that i was aloof and not working hard enough in the social scene or the washington scene. i could have done a better job having more community around me showing people if i'm doing well in your doing well in your industry gather. i know washington can be tough. we have seen a lot more in overtime and i have, but i felt like there was a certain amount of in difference when i left and that didn't feel good and i try to internalize that and realized people may be jealous and like to see them come up.
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i turned some turn some people off or alienated a long delay and i would do that differently. i mean i felt whatever the next chapter is that i'm different. i've been humbled and again on tv at 18 and then 44 to have a big setback like this it's very humbling experience and i have to think a lot about who am i in who am i. if i'm not this guy on tv does anybody care about me in this town or beyond. i just have to wrestle with all of that so yes i think the changes. >> host: one night i was sitting next to you at dinner and we were talking about erika brown who is the spiritual adviser and a very good friend of mine and who is a brilliant woman and we were discussing her and you and your role as the
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moderator of meet the press and you were saying one of the things you were talking about is that you were sort of worried you were up in the stratosphere and that it didn't feel real and you were trying to sort out how you handle the situation and still have a real a real life and be a real person because of the way that other people perceive you. it was an unusually deep conversation. and i remember saying i covered washington for 47 years and i see this happen so often that people are in power and watch people achieve power and then have power and lose power and that one of the most important things -- and then she did say
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to you once before this happened something like who would you be if you lose it all? >> guest: this is a big part of my identity but asking the question i really couldn't think about him till i never thought i was losing losing it all it's worth pointing out i was far enough down the faith i did have perspective and i did feel study and had a sense of perspective even when i got the meet the press job and i write about this in the book. you are so much more talented and better looking now. [laughter] nothing has changed here other than it's all about the platform. it's what comes with the platform and much of it is not. so i had a sense of that but i will be honest when i did lose it if was harder for me to hold
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my my feet and holed that sense of identity because so much was wound up in the idea that i have a standing because of what i was on television. as opposed to 2 a.m. in the world and in my life and yes that was something i was trying to balance. if you have a private in a public life how you can venture your self a. these are all things that come together. people are out for themselves and there's a lot of jealousy, there's a lot of backstabbing
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and gossip especially in this town if you are up urls and if you are down you cannot be thought about again. in television news which i know best the whole place is built, the whole system is built upon people that are on television and catering to them making them bigger and more influential and there is a lot of deference given to people in our culture who are in television generally and in television news, so that created the competition and it doesn't always bring up the best in people. i will tell you a story i wrote
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there was a tough top story in the "washington post" about me and about the challenges i was facing and had some things in there that weren't true and it was a tough piece. >> host: that is the one they said they brought in a psychologist or a psychiatrist to examine you which is not true that was unfortunate and it was wrong and it was verifiably wrong and unfortunately it was reported that way. i asked if she would come into study with me and you know when
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you call her by the spiritual adviser -- i had been trying to get help to counter the peace and all this stuff so i get off the phone and david i'm listening to you. i really do think of this as a holy person and we study the different proverbs if we established the path all of the ways will be true and if she
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taught me that lesson imagine that you are walking through a maze of your own ground level and you try to find your way out who are you and who is it that you want to be are you going to get into this anger or is this a moment that he will be the person god expects you to be. i made a sticky note of that piece from proverbs and put it on my computer screen for the rest of my time at nbc. >> host: you just mentioned anger and you talked about how you had anger issues and you have been trying to work on that. there was one the decorators showhouse. tell about what happened there.
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>> guest: i came home in the middle of the day stressed out about stuff at work that things were not going particularly well and i couldn't find any parking in front of my house. it was a design house around the corner of all things benefiting children. there's that voice inside of me where they believe it's god or someone else. i said i know but i am so right about this i'm going to keep on doing so i go up and complained more loudly than i thought and all the rest. so i go home and my publicist calls and it's a reliable source and they heard about the incident and i just thought god help me this is just the worst.
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so the worst part, you know, don't do something you didn't want to see on the "washington post" and it is a lesson not learned, and death was coming home and she said what you have to be very careful and have self-control. people are watching the good counsel so i knew she would be disappointed and it was just horrible. the piece came out and she has a great line that said if you want to complain about the parking have someone else do it. not only is it interesting but then it kind of took off from there and it was all over the internet and on talk radio and i wish i hadn't done it and i wrote before the head of the design house and apologized which they received very graciously. >> host: this is the day of atonement --
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>> guest: when you ask for forgiveness and for each other for the wrongs that you do. so yeah i do that and it's very interesting to have one of your personal weaknesses play out and hurt you like that publicly. >> host: do you think the anger comes from your parents divorce and your mother's alcoholism? >> guest: my dad struggles with his temper and i was afraid of my dad he had a bad temper and i don't think that i've replicated all of that but i certainly have aspects of it and so whether it comes from insecurity or a lack of self-control i do not pin it on anyone at this episode it's just kind of how i am and the bible says outside the door. i feel like that is another great line in the book about
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character and being humble is to realize you are always an underdog against your own weaknesses and for me and a lot of people that's one thing i struggle with. >> host: did you ever see a shrink during this time? >> guest: did i see a therapist, no. it was the psychological and spiritual. during this time -- at any time, no, no not during these times. i think it is a good thing to do >> host: what happened after you left nbc you said you had this position how much did things change for you? >> guest: i think it changed a
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lot. you fall out of that kind of public position and what comes with the trappings of a job. my friends were still real with me to get the a sense of who is real and who is not and yes i had instances it was painfully clear i was no longer the moderator of meet the press and certain relationships they did away. one of the funny things is there were people that still would come out and say i love your show. at a certain point i would say you can't love me that much because you haven't realized i'm not on tv anymore. so a lot of people would come up to me which i appreciate and people would be particularly angry about what happened or they don't like the change.
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>> host: so it is a killer town and it is really i remember when bill clinton first came here he said washington is a town that you are either up or down. >> guest: that is official washington, that is the triangle between politics and law and media. and there's lots of aspects and we've been very blessed with really good friends. >> host: in the last year i guess it's been a year now was there a worse moment? it's now been since it happened. during that time was there a point that you just bought my gosh i can't. this is just -- once the shock wore off?
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>> guest: it was more that bad feeling evil as i got deeper into it and realized okay it's great to be kind of gracious about this and now it's important to model but for my kids and just it's sunk in that i lost something that i cared about and i had insecurity about whether it meant that was it for my career with what i do and i think i had a sense of talking to lots of smart people and experienced people that go into the next chapter and i was eager for the just wondering what fills the space and what if something doesn't and i think that is natural to feel that way and yes it felt bad on that respect. >> do you have moments of depression about it?
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i don't want to be back where i was. i do view it as a great idea for me to understand there's all kinds of new possibilities both personally and professionally so learning from the setback in life i think it is good for me. i think that i am very blessed there are so many people that lose their job or struggle financially so i am blessed on that score. i may feel bad that i feel like it is a great blessing that i've gone through and have kind of grown more grounded.
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>> host: one of the things i was interested in is the people you talked to. you talked about being in the crowd with joel alstyne and davis would've overcome with emotion being with this group of people. why did you go to them for the council. i was reaching out to other traditions for inspiration and guidance so it's a charismatic figure and to some some of these are really accessible through our on the massive stage. it's powerful to be in the church and experience how his
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congregants experience him and church athlete would. there is so much surrender and it's incredibly powerful. a little bit about the pastor he had more of a journalist skepticism that he says look the answer is to accept christ and that's not what he said. the trick is to have a heart for god and let god in a little bit more. what do you do when you encounter people like me that are saying held by deep in my faith and what is your experience with people like that so to get a perspective on my own path is why i fought them in the first place and in each case
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the discussion evolved into what it means to develop a stronger faith and what it looks like and what it feels like and how one that opens your heart to do it. i remember going to him for an interview on a particularly bad day that is a lot of speculation and whatnot and it was kind of depressing. the question is whether you are a public person or the manager of the hardware store are you somebody that defines herself by somebody that is created in the image of god and therefore called to account and it can't be the kind got me the kind of deeper perspective about what it means. >> host: what does it mean to be a jew? there's still a lot of anti-semitism in this country.
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there are some places that jews are not accepted into the anti-semitism is growing in europe. have you ever felt discriminated against, have you ever felt anti-semitism towards you and do you worry about that for your children? >> guest: i haven't experienced much of that. a little bit here and there over social media. not like friends of mine in the media. i worry about it more because i think -- i used to think a little bit more about it at the time was kind of over but you see this ancient revise and the
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sentiment for people that think that this is a -- criticizing it can quickly jump a the fire line into anti-semitism. it's not a grave concern for me it is a grave concern in terms of the future in europe it's a great concern for me and i do take very serious my responsibilities as an individual to what am i doing to help them survive and how how they are part of the jewish community and help for rich. >> guest: as a journalist i try to stay clear of that in the policy questions and you know
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i'm jewish and i love israel and i believe in its right to exist and its safety but i also think for me israel is a complicated policy and it's not the center of the jewish identity or belief. i know and appreciate its incredible importance in jewish history and jewish theology i certainly feel that and absorbed that about as a -- someone who's trying to deepen my faith i don't put israel at the kind of center. >> host: when you talk about starting to go to church and getting more involved in your wife's faith, sometimes you sound more like a christian van youtube like a jew and it seems like you are being a little bit more drawn towards christianity
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and i wonder why -- would you ever consider becoming a christian or would you ever consider maybe not converting but accepting christianity? >> guest: not as i sit here today. i love being jewish and i feel rooted. i think that there is something of a misnomer sometimes. chris keller said that i'm not giving enough for my spiritual journey and maybe he's right that i'm not giving enough credit. he thinks that i am moved by the way that they are properly recognized. i know that i am jewish and some of what they might think of as more of the christian language and vocabulary is a more
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spiritual vocabulary and my bu is that to speak of a relationship with god is so jewish and it's also very christian because they are reading the psalms as jews are. i looked at the mountains for where does my help come it comes from the lord the creator of heaven and earth. so they seek to be in relationship with god. again i find that the more i learn about christianity the more i learn about jesus i find it incredibly moving. it doesn't mean that i'm accepting all therefore i have to decide.
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we would make the rest of the journey and to get to our truth as much as i understand the fundamental truth is kind of where it ends. i don't claim to know all the answers here and i try to have some rootedness because that is important for me and i like to draw inspiration so that i can keep growing. >> host: jesus is a more accessible path to god. >> guest: she understands this to be an attraction as someone
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that walked among the human beings who drained the divinity and died for the sins of human beings as very powerful and can be an example in his life before he started the church as incredibly powerful about forgiveness about understanding faith, and this is the thing. i remember having a discussion that says god forgives us and loves us for a qdr before he. she said that that it's depending a lot on him and that is the jewish belief but here's the thing. when i agreed deuteronomy, the charges that say i should love god with all my heart and soul with my head and heart and hands and how i interact in the things
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i do in this world i think that is something that jews and christians share suggest there is questions of eternal salvation of the holy spirit and all the rest and again i don't have all the answers about these things and it's incredibly interesting and i don't claim to have those answers i'm just moving along the path. >> host: uvb that jesus is the son of god and you don't believe that but she does. >> guest: i haven't worked all that out. when you look ahead to the next ten years i want to say where do you want to be that but i think the right question is who do you want to be? >> guest: i want to be a journalist who feels i'm thriving and working with a
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sense of vocation and calling and i want to be the best husband and father and friend that i can be an even deeper person of faith that is humble in the world who is mindful of god's teachings and pass in the world. a great the great chapter of my life up until professionally and the subsequent chapters that are full of meaning where i'm grounded in faith and the best person i can be. i'm enjoying what i'm doing and i'm pursuing something that feels meaningful to me being as good as i can be.
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>> host: david, thank you. >> that was "after words" the signature program which offers authors of the latest nonfiction books are interviewed. watch past programs online at booktv.org.
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