Reporting on religion for years, network correspondent details her beliefs in new book.
When Lauren Green was in sixth grade, the story goes, a kid she knew in Minneapolis named Prince Rogers Nelson called her on the phone one day and said “I like you.” He was about the same age. Lauren hung up on him.
Years later, when Green was getting her start in news broadcasting, and Prince had already gained notoriety as a singer-songwriter, he called her again, asking her to appear in a music video he was making called “My Name is Prince.” She did, playing the role of … a newscaster.
Green’s career has taken her to New York, where she is chief religion correspondent for Fox News. And while her reporting covers all kinds of faiths and how they coexist with an increasingly secular American culture, she has declared her own creed in a thoughtful new book, Lighthouse Faith: God as a Living Reality in a World Immersed in Fog. It is, in her words, a “guide to discover how to experience God in my everyday life—how to respond to the real God versus creating my own version of the deity.”
These days, Green is pursuing a different prince, the Prince of Peace. She has been under many spotlights—as third runner-up in the 1985 Miss America contest, and as Miss Minnesota the year before; as a broadcaster and co-host of Fox & Friends, and as a concert pianist, including a performance for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Now her focus is on the Light of Christ.
Lighthouse Faith follows a trifold structure, and Green undertakes meditations on the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Her starting point is a photo of a lighthouse in a friend’s beach house on Long Island, New York. A real lighthouse is not far away, and Green sets out to visit it and interview a local lighthouse historian, digging up cool facts and lore about this traditional warning system for mariners approaching land.
For Green, the lighthouse is a good symbol for God’s law: It’s immovable, but it’s there for our own good. If we do not heed it, we are likely to end up as shipwrecks. The light in the tower, like the First Commandment, is the reason for the rest of the structure. Likewise, if we break any of the Commandments Two through Ten, it’s only because we have first disregarded the First, “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me.”
“Writing the book was such a wonderful experience because it really got me closer to my faith than I had ever been in my 20s,” Green, 59, said in a recent interview in Manhattan. “One of the things that really transformed my understanding of faith was the preaching of Dr. Timothy Keller [founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City], and this understanding that there shouldn’t be any separation between you and the Gospel, that your life is a testament to God.”
She also credits J.I. Packer’s book Knowing God as a milestone on her spiritual journey, helping her realize that there is nothing more important in life than coming to know the Creator. “That was something that was missing in my life before,” she said. “I know about God but I didn’t have an experience of God working in my life.”
In her own book, she tries to drive home the point that God should not be some distant concept but can be found in the everyday events of one’s life.
“This faith is real for me, it’s not an intellectual pursuit; it’s how I live,” she said.
Though Green is an Evangelical Protestant, the friend in whose beach house Green started reflecting on lighthouses is a daily-Mass-going Catholic. Their friendship began through Green’s work as a reporter. When Dan Brown’s novel The DaVinci Code was being made into a movie, the Catholic society known as Opus Dei undertook an effort to educate the media—and in turn the general public—as to what it really is and what it is trying to do. To counter Brown’s image of Opus Dei as a group of murderous albino monks, Opus Dei invited reporters for a briefing at its Manhattan headquarters.
They also invited Cathy Hickey, who belongs to Opus Dei as a “supernumerary,” someone who consecrates herself to the work and spirituality of Opus Dei but can be married and live as any lay person does.
“Because they didn’t want me to be the lone female in a room having lunch with a bunch of men, they invited Cathy to be at the lunch as well,” Green recalled. “We just struck up a conversation, and … she invited me to a retreat. I invited her to my Christmas caroling party.”
When Green was going through a rough time, including a difficult move, Hickey invited her to spend the weekend on Long Island. Green was impressed with her hospitality in a beach house that had been in the family for several generations. It was homey and humble, not an extravagant Hamptons mansion.
In fact, Hickey often hosts members of New York’s Franciscan Friars of the Renewal to make personal retreats in the house, and the first weekend Green stayed there, she was somewhat surprised to find a “monk” out in the cottage (he was not an albino monk, either). She and her niece got to know the friar, who later invited them to a picnic/fundraiser, accompanied by an Evening Prayer service.
“So here we were on Friday somewhat traumatized because of the move, and by Sunday we were praying at Evensong, all because of Cathy saying, ‘Why don’t you come out and stay with me,'” Green reminisced.
Hickey appreciates the friendship, as well. “She looks more deeply, with different eyes than the rest of us,” she said of Green. “She sees God in so many things. She’s really so attuned to the will of God.”
Although Hickey is an early riser, she always finds Green up before her, “at the kitchen table with her well-worn Bible annotated and filled with underlines and highlights.” Green said she spent many weekends at Hickey’s house working on the book, and Hickey recalls evenings when various combinations of visitors “would get into discussions, and Lauren would be talking about something, and I thought, ‘This is great, you’re really talking through the chapters of your book and fighting through them intellectually with all of us.’ It was great to see that.”
“Cathy is for me a wonderful example of what a Catholic should be because she is incredibly spiritual, and she lives out her faith,” Green reflected. “She goes to Mass daily, and when I’m in Westhampton, if my husband isn’t around to drive me into Grace Presbyterian or something like that, I go to Mass with Cathy.
“And she’s really taught me so much about hospitality, about opening your heart, opening your home, about what God’s love looks like in action, how it works,” she added. “I think she’s in a relationship with God. This is not a perfunctory faith; it really is a real thing. How do you meet the troubles in your life? You go to God. How do you deal with troublesome people in your life? You have to go to God. How do you express joy? You go to God and say, ‘Thank you.'”
Two years ago, Green married New York attorney Ted Nikolis in what she called a “big fat Greek Orthodox wedding.” She sometimes attends Divine Liturgy with her husband, and said she gets a “lot more of the rituals of the faith when I go to the Greek Orthodox church,” as compared to the “emotion and spirit” that a Black Baptist service might elicit or the intellectual response that Presbyterian sermons might bring out.
“What’s really beautiful about the Greek Orthodox Church is that they chant the scripture, and knowing what music is and how music gets into our psyches, singing the scriptures …” she searches for the words. “The sustained tone gets it into your brain.”
Green admits that she is “on a journey. I haven’t really arrived anywhere. This book is really my first crystallization of the faith, the first working things out.”
“A friend of Cathy’s was reading about the book and asked me ‘Why aren’t you Catholic?'” she related. “It’s a fascinating question, and no one’s ever asked me that. I really don’t know. I think maybe that question maybe deserves a glass of wine and talking that over. My husband would be perfectly fine with it because it’s very close to the Orthodox.”
In the meantime, she is considering book projects that would expand on her trinitarian outline of Lighthouse Faith, each one going more deeply into the reality of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
But though she has proven herself with this debut volume to be a thinking Christian, what’s important to her is living the faith.
“I know that God wants us to glorify him, and that is what we’re here for,” she said, “to glorify him with our lives with everything we do.”