Wednesday, June 15, 2016
The Faith Club
It's actually a TERRIFIC book. The Faith Club: Three Women Search for Understanding, written by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver and Priscilla Warner, is an honest conversation among three women of different faiths. They don't shirk from the hard questions, and they don't always like each other's opinions or answers, but they all come to respect each other and learn from each other. Here's the summary:
In the wake of 9/11, Idliby, an American Muslim of Palestinian descent, sought out fellow mothers of the Jewish and Christian faiths to write a children's book on the commonalities among their respective traditions. In their first meeting, however, the women realized they would have to address their differences first. Oliver, an Episcopalian who was raised Catholic, irked Warner, a Jewish woman and children's author, with her description of the Crucifixion story, which sounded too much like "Jews killed Jesus" for Warner's taste. Idliby's efforts to join in on the usual "Judeo-Christian" debate tap into a sense of alienation she already feels in the larger Muslim community, where she is unable to find a progressive mosque that reflects her non–veil-wearing, spiritual Islam. The ladies come to call their group a "faith club" and, over time, midwife each other into stronger belief in their own respective religions. More Fight Club than book club, the coauthors pull no punches; their outstanding honesty makes for a page-turning read, rare for a religion nonfiction book. From Idliby's graphic defense of the Palestinian cause, Oliver's vacillations between faith and doubt, and Warner's struggles to acknowledge God's existence, almost every taboo topic is explored on this engaging spiritual ride.
If I had to say anything critical about this book it's that ... well, it's almost too easy. Look at these women: beautiful, educated, safe, upper middle class. These well-heeled "People of the Book" don't have to stretch too far to be civil, find common ground and learn from one another. A far more challenging conversation might take place among women whose religious practices are more rigid/conservative and whose educational and economic backgrounds more disparate.
Nevertheless, this book was well done and the topics important.