Kathie Lee Gifford says she has a 'problem with religion': 'Faith in the living God redeems us'

Kathie Lee Gifford presented with the Visionary Awards at the 2020 Movieguide Awards.
Kathie Lee Gifford presented with the Visionary Awards at the 2020 Movieguide Awards. | Movieguide

Kathie Lee Gifford has never been shy about her Christian faith and how it guides every media project she tackles, from her time on “Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee” to the "Today" show.

But she’s also clear about the fact that she has a “problem with religion.”

“I'm not a fan of it,” the 70-year-old singer, songwriter, actress and author told The Christian Post. “I believe religion puts people in chains and faith in the living God is what redeems us from the chains, and following Jesus gives us the roadmap for how to be loving, how to be kind, how to be everything Paul talked about. Love is patient, love is kind, love never wants its own way. 

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How many of us live a life like that? I think we all basically want to. The Church, to me, has never been a building. The word is ‘ecclesia’ in Greek and it really means ‘movement,’ a movement of God. That can happen in a building on a Sunday morning. It can happen in a synagogue on a Saturday morning. It can happen when you're walking in the park, it should happen everywhere. The Bible says in Him we live and move and have our very being. That's thrilling to me.”

It’s this passion for making the Bible alive and active in an increasingly secularized culture that prompted Gifford to appear in the Amazon Prime series “The Baxters” alongside her daughter, Cassidy.

The 10-episode series, based on the bestselling book series by Karen Kingsbury, follows Elizabeth and John Baxter (Roma Downey and Ted McGinley, respectively) and their five adult children as they navigate life's highs and lows both with and without God.

The drama tackles themes like addiction, infidelity and divorce framed within a narrative of redemption and faith. The first season follows the couple's daughter, Kari (Ali Cobrin), who discovers her professor husband, Tim (Brandon Hirsch), is having an affair with one of his students. Kari must find comfort in her family and faith to discover if love is a choice or if her marriage can be redeemed.

The series, Gifford said, addresses difficult topics but does so with an honesty and sensitivity that she hopes will spark conversations about faith, forgiveness and the possibility of redemption.

“The challenge for ‘The Baxters’ is to make it relevant to people that are broke and never had a family that loved them, they don't know what that looks like,” Gifford said. “‘The Baxters’ can help them see what it actually looks like. It’s a wonderful show. It’s not sappy, it’s not cliche. It’s real and the writing is excellent.”

Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime

Cassidy Gifford reflecting on the importance of narratives like those presented throughout “The Baxters,” emphasized the universal experience of brokenness and the need for stories that offer hope and redemption.

“It’s so needed; we're all so broken, no matter who we are,” she said. “I really think people are desperate to hear these stories. You resonate with something because you see yourself in it, even if you might not deal with that specific thing, whether it be addiction or whatever it is. There is brokenness in each and every one of us and I think so much is highlighted on television today and in movies that is … so oppressively negative and people do want to know that there's hope and that things can be redeemed. No one is so low that they're beyond God's love.”

Addressing the younger generation, particularly those struggling with mental health issues, Cassidy offered a message of hope. "There is always hope, even when you feel like you're at rock bottom," she said.

“It’s much harder on some days than it is on others,” she added. “But ultimately, at the end of the day, we are seen and we are known and we are loved. To be able to see yourself through God's eyes, I think, is something I've been trying to do a little bit more because I struggle with anxiety like the next person. … See that you are whole and  God loves you so much and you are made in His image and He just adores you.”

Kingsbury’s faith-infused novel series has encompassed more than 25 titles since its debut in 2002. “The Baxters” Amazon Prime series follows the big screen adaptation of her bestselling novel, A Thousand Tomorrows.

Kingsbury told CP that she sees herself primarily as an “evangelist” who wants to show “hurting people” the love and redemption available through Christ.

“How I feel about a story is that when Jesus wanted to tell you something straight, he just told you straight,” she said. “And when He wanted to make a point, He might turn over a table. But when He wanted to touch your heart, He told a story. And in that story, you had to lean in and figure out what He was saying and understand the parallels and the allegory of what that parable meant. And that's what I want to do by telling the stories God gives me.”

Kingsbury, who didn’t become a Christian until she was in her 20s, said she knows firsthand what it’s like to live a life “without walking with Jesus.” Through her stories, she said, she wants to provide a space for reflection on the deeper questions of life, faith and the power of a relationship with Jesus.

“What is my best, most careful, crafted way to be able to show people that even though there's loss, there's still hope when you have faith? Part of that is going straight toward the hard things,” she said. “I want to go straight toward it, not steer away from that so that you can see that He is not the reason for the bad things that happened, but He is the rescue, but there's no way to walk with hope without Him.”

Gifford reflected on the authenticity and imperfection of the Baxter family and how the series portrays life as an adventurous journey of faith when aligned with God's path.

“Sometimes we care too much what other people think and not enough of what God thinks of us,” she said. “What God thinks of us is that He sees us wrapped in a robe of righteousness. He doesn't judge us, He made us and loves us, and His Holy Spirit's work in us is continuing every moment until He takes us home. We're always in a state of evolution as believers, as human beings. If we choose the right road and that's, of course, His way, life will be an adventure. It’s not boring to try to live a life following Jesus. … If your life as a believer is boring, you're reading the wrong Scriptures. Get yourself the original Greek and the original Hebrew and study that. You'll see it’s an active and alive thing. That's the kind of faith I want.”

Masey McLain, Josh Plasse, Cassidy Gifford, Reilly Anspaugh and Emily Peterson also star in season one of “The Baxters,” with guest stars Gifford, Jake Allyn, Damien Leake and Orel De La Mota.

LightWorkers Media, Will Packer Media and Haven Entertainment produced “The Baxters.” Season one hits Prime Video on March 28.

Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at:

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