(Photo: Reuters/Andrew Kelly)
Kathie Lee Gifford is the writer behind the new Broadway production "Scandalous!" which tells the life story of Aimee Semple McPherson, a controversial religious figure and founder of the Foursquare Church. Gifford took time out from her busy schedule to speak to The Christian Post after a preview performance.
CP: Tell us about the phrase a "fresh cup of mercy"
Gifford: My life changed when I read, "seek me first and all these things shall be given you." I didn't understand that God meant "first thing in the morning, before you do anything else." And I said, "When? Before the 'Today' show?" I want to have a good hour of meditation and prayer otherwise I can't get through the day. God is faithful and we'll get through one day at a time. Don't worry about tomorrow-God will provide. God will sustain me through whatever life brings.
CP: How did you hear about the story of Aimee Semple McPherson?
Gifford: I just heard her name about 40 years ago, when I was in college. I thought, 'Nobody could have lived a life like that.' She's so legendary in California; I dated her grandson … sweet guy, didn't work out. Later, I went to a church and was dating Frank (Gifford) 27 years ago and telling him about my fascination with this woman and he said, "Oh, I went to her church when I was a kid." He remembered her.
I felt God calling me to do this … to tell this story. Then I started talking to her son and daughter, who were both in their 80s. They separately said, "You're the one to tell her story."
I don't believe in circumstances … God brings us together. The connections I had with Frank, her children, were no accident. She has slipped through the cracks of history and it is so unfair. This is an extraordinary woman who did amazing things that no woman had ever done before or has done since. She broke all the rules. An interesting fact is that she actually baptized Marilyn Monroe; her grandmother was a follower of Aimee's.
What I love most about her is her love for people. She had Jesus' love for people. It was the religious community that despised Aimee just like the religious community despised Jesus. Jesus was scandalous, too! He broke all the rules, was scandalous, healed on the Sabbath, hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors. Aimee did, too, by going into the brothels. She didn't behave because her love was scandalous.
They both got dirty in working with people
CP: What has the reaction been to the previews?
Gifford: I wrote this for the secular world, even though you will get some preaching when you're here! Whether it's a hit or not is in God's hands; we can only control our commitment to the show. We've had standing ovations since the first preview- it's touching people.
You know, my faith plays a role in my everyday living. As a woman of faith, I think I understand her in a special way. Our leading lady is an atheist, though. It shows the power of God to bring us all together. I tried very hard not to make it "too Christian," but wanted to make everyone feel included.
One man came up to me and said, "I'm an agnostic and I loved this!" and I said, "Then I've done my job." People are being moved, being touched by this woman's story and the entertainment value. They are crying and loving it … that's the person you want to get to and reach.
The Foursquare Church is still in existence, as is Aimee's original church in California. Not only did she work with celebrities, she worked with everyday people. Nearly 7.9 million people across the United States, the Middle East, South America, and Europe attend a Foursquare church.