How’s Your Faith?: An Unlike­ly Spir­i­tu­al Journey

  • Review
By – May 19, 2015

On August 14, 2014, while board­ing a plane to pick up his chil­dren at sum­mer camp, David Gre­go­ry learned that, after six years as mod­er­a­tor of Meet the Press, he was no longer the host of the pro­gram. He had had his final show; the great­est job [he] ever had” was over.

After an entire pro­fes­sion­al life spent as a jour­nal­ist, twen­ty of those years at NBC, Gre­go­ry was abrupt­ly with­out a job, a very pub­lic and humil­i­at­ing blow. But for more than ten years, Gre­go­ry had been on a spir­i­tu­al jour­ney. True, his work world had fall­en apart, but his larg­er life — his sense of him­self and the love of his fam­i­ly, his won­der at the ven­er­a­ble trees in the woods near his home — was sol­id. And he had faith and knew he could rely on it to car­ry him through. How’s Your Faith? fol­lows Gre­go­ry on his jour­ney — a con­tin­u­ing jour­ney — to find mean­ing and pur­pose in life through find­ing God.

The son of a Jew­ish father and lapsed Catholic moth­er, Gre­go­ry had always con­sid­ered him­self a Jew. On the high hol­i­days he went with his father to the Syn­a­gogue for the Per­form­ing Arts in Los Ange­les, and he had a bar mitz­vah. But faith had no part in his Judaism. At twen­ty-six, as he was launched on his pro­fes­sion­al tra­jec­to­ry, he met Beth Wilkin­son, a Jus­tice Depart­ment pros­e­cu­tor eight years his senior. Four years lat­er they were mar­ried, and the shape of Gregory’s life changed. He and Beth, a life­long com­mit­ted Methodist, had decid­ed their chil­dren would be brought up Jew­ish, but Gre­go­ry couldn’t real­ly address Beth’s most chal­leng­ing ques­tion. If they were going to raise Jew­ish chil­dren, the chil­dren should be brought up not as cul­tur­al Jews but as Jews with a com­mit­ment to their faith. Beth could clear­ly define her faith, but Gre­go­ry was at a loss when she said, I know what you are, but what do you believe?”

With that ques­tion in mind Gre­go­ry start­ed on the jour­ney that is the core of his very per­son­al and spir­i­tu­al mem­oir. How’s Your Faith? takes Gre­go­ry back to his trou­bled child­hood, deal­ing with divorced par­ents — an alco­holic moth­er and a larg­er than life dom­i­nat­ing father — and to his open­ly ambi­tious career path. As he set out to answer Beth’s ques­tion, Gre­go­ry began a search both deep and broad. He stud­ies Judaism with a promi­nent Ortho­dox teacher, and he talks with reli­gious lead­ers of all faiths, look­ing for the source of their faith and the place of God in their lives. There are stum­bles along the way as Gre­go­ry starts to prac­tice Judaism, and it takes the advice of sym­pa­thet­ic rab­bis to help him find his way.

How’s Your Faith?, a ques­tion put to Gre­go­ry by Pres­i­dent George W. Bush, moves back and forth in Gregory’s life and address­es read­ers at sev­er­al lev­els. For those seek­ing a rich­er spir­i­tu­al life, Gregory’s will­ing­ness to write can­did­ly about his per­son­al vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty and his sense of God in his life offers a pos­si­ble path. For part­ners in an inter­faith mar­riage, Gregory’s sen­si­tiv­i­ty to his wife’s sense of loss at not being able to share her reli­gion with her­chil­drenand their ways of cre­at­ing an active Jew­ish life may be the most touch­ing and heart­felt parts of the book, a tes­ta­ment to their mar­riage. The dis­cus­sions with spir­i­tu­al lead­ers com­prise a vol­ume of thought-pro­vok­ing and illu­mi­nat­ing state­ments of faith and its pow­er. This is the unlike­ly side of David Gre­go­ry that con­trasts with the view that saw him as a some­what arro­gant and ambi­tious careerist. Here his pride is expressed in his fam­i­ly and his ongo­ing jour­ney to be a hum­bler, more open, and fuller per­son. Includes an index — key to fig­ures in the book.

Maron L. Wax­man, retired edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor, spe­cial projects, at the Amer­i­can Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry, was also an edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor at Harper­Collins and Book-of-the-Month Club.

Discussion Questions