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How Julie Chen Moonves Found God

How Julie Chen Moonves Found God

Most people will know Julie Chen Moonves as the host of Big Brother or the former co-host of The Talk. She’s spent over 20 years in television, building a name for herself, but in her new memoir, there’s someone else she’d rather talk about: God.

Moonves recently released But First, God, a detailed journey of her conversion to Christianity that began just five years ago. Following a tumultuous season of life, Moonves turned to God for the first time ever, and nothing was the same.

We sat down with Moonves to talk about her faith journey, from her beginnings to where God is taking her now.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

What happened five years ago that started you on your spiritual journey?

Julie Chen Moonves: My life was very busy, a busy bee, and it seemed glamorous. I had my dream job, a dream husband, a dream child, and two dream jobs. Then, I lost my main job. I was forced out of my role as co-host and moderator at The Talk after eight years. It was a fun job. When I lost it, my life turned upside down, like a snow globe. This upheaval triggered a whirlwind of emotions: anger, fear about my future, and an identity crisis. I was so entwined with my identity as a broadcaster that I felt lost. It was the perfect time, a perfect storm, to look upward instead of focusing on earthly things.

A turning point came through an email from my aunt, a born-again Christian. She and my uncle embraced Christianity in the 90s after my uncle survived cancer. In 2001, he was a 9/11 survivor from the North Tower. They’re still with us today. My aunt saw my struggles and emailed me. She shared that a friend from their New Jersey church, who I’d never met, was praying for me. This friend felt I needed to learn about the Gospel and Jesus. My aunt, who never pushed her faith on our large family, was just passing on the message.

I had considered church for a few months, especially after a tumultuous summer leading to that September when I left The Talk. That email touched my heart. So, on a Thursday morning, after dropping my son at school, I entered a church I’d passed countless times. It was 8:30 a.m., surprisingly open, with some candles lit. Alone, I broke down in a pew, sobbing, asking God for help, light, love, and hope. That’s when I began to really pay attention to and acknowledge Him.

What was your view of God and Christianity prior to that?

JCM: Prior to that, growing up, I had never attended a church service. My parents displayed a crucifix on their bedroom wall, and my mom always wore a crucifix around her neck, while my dad occasionally wore a cross. However, they rarely discussed God or religion with me. As a child, I prayed before going to sleep, which I think I saw on Little House on the Prairie.

I shared a room with my sister, sleeping in bunk beds. I recited the same prayer every night mechanically: “Healthy, wealthy, and wise, please protect my family of five and let us be healthy, wealthy and wise.” As I grew older, my prayers were reserved for times of illness when I felt gravely unwell.

In the 1980s, with the rise of televangelists like Jim Bakker and Jerry Falwell, the term “Christians” conjured an image of judgmental, Bible-thumping individuals who lacked acceptance for others, particularly if they weren’t white. This wasn’t a positive image.

As I matured, I rarely thought about God. I was unaware of His control over the weather and everything else, His sovereignty over all events, whether ordained or permitted, and His ability to transform tragedy into something that serves His kingdom and demonstrates His love for the world. “God so loved the world,” as the saying goes. My concept of Him was simplistic, resembling the wise, old man with a long white beard often depicted in media. My prayer life, when I did pray during illness or when desiring something greatly, resembled a “Dear Santa” letter. It was naive, shaped largely by television and movies, with little real understanding.

How do you feel like your life has changed since you started your relationship with God?

JCM: There’s a peace about me that I never knew existed. I never craved it because being busy with work, which I equated with living, seemed fulfilling. I often ran on fumes, but now there’s peace within me. I’ve never been a worrier, but the level of stress has decreased significantly. I used to be a control freak, thinking that control meant no worries. Now, I realize I’m controlling nothing and am in charge of nothing.

I’m more easygoing now, both at home and work. My colleagues at Big Brother have noticed, saying there’s a newfound peace about me. I used to sweat the small stuff, especially on live television. If something went wrong, I’d be internally frustrated. Now, I can laugh off unscripted events.

As a parent, finding Jesus has made me more patient. This extends to my son and how I approach life. My prayer life has transformed. It’s now more about praising and thanking God for often-overlooked blessings like clean water, electricity, and health.

Previously, I was selfish, focusing on my career as my false idol. I believed I earned everything on my own. Now, I’m filled with gratitude and thank Jesus for everything, recognizing my small place in His world. I pray before important moments, like opening my son’s report card, and asking God for wisdom and clarity in communication.

I’ve grown more mature in Christ and as a human, becoming more understanding, patient, empathetic, and sympathetic. I’ve shifted from serving myself to serving others. I try to teach my 14-year-old son this principle. I explain that Christmas isn’t about gifts under the tree, but about giving our time, tangible items, or services to those who will benefit.

We’ve already received the greatest gift: salvation. It’s not something you can put under a tree, but it’s a gift we receive every day. My perspective on life and the world has changed. I try to view everything through my “Jesus glasses.”

What do you hope people take away from your story?

JCM: I hope they’re not intimidated to pray, because there is no right or wrong way to pray. You just have to start doing it. It’s just communicating with God. You do it when you’re driving, you do it in your head. You can do it when you have insomnia, you can do it when you wake up in the morning. And when you’re talking to yourself, when you think, ‘Oh yeah, I started talking to myself,’ or ‘I talk to myself all the time,’ you’re not talking to yourself. You’re actually talking to God, okay? He’s always listening.

I want people to know it’s never too late, that He is our only true source of hope, that if you want to live with hope and positivity, you need to invite God into your life, and you really need to spend quiet time with Him. You need to sit still. That’s when you can hear Him and study His Word.

And it’s a journey that once you get on the track, it never ends until He brings us home. And each day, when you grow closer to God and feel His presence, you will have more and more peace that is the constant hum in your life. There will be ups and downs, and there will still be stumbling blocks, but when that happens, you’re going to have hope and you’re going to know that God is going to get you through it and that you are not alone. He either allowed it or ordained it, and you have to grow stronger from that with His help guiding you, holding your hand. So that’s what I want people to take away. It’s never too late.

And have your own personal relationship with Him. It’s the best relationship you’re ever going to have. God can’t do everything, and we should be thankful He can’t do everything. He cannot lie. He cannot break a promise. He cannot be untrue. He cannot be unfaithful. So all those things that God cannot do, hallelujah. Thank God He can’t. He is so faithful.

He’ll be your best friend.

You can hear more of our conversation with Moonves on The RELEVANT Podcast

© 2023 RELEVANT Media Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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