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Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Faith Club

The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew- Three Women Search for Understanding by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver, and Priscilla Warner.

After September 11th, Ranya Idliby was faced with questions about their faith and death from her children. Ranya and her children are Muslim and live in New York where they were confronted often by the persistent stereotypes of Muslims and terrorism. She was inspired to seek out a Christian (Oliver) and a Jew (Warner) to write a children's book about the three religions and hopefully to reassure her kids (and others) that Islam wasn't scary and that the three religions were about the same original God.

What followed was several years of regular meetings and open discussion about each woman's beliefs and the background for each religion. Each chapter is divided into sections written by each woman on their take on the discussions, and there are small sections taken from recordings of their conversations. Each one took notes, and this book is the result.

I am not a religious person, but am drawn to books like this one. I am fascinated by the path people take to God and how they express it in their lives. This book starts off with some stereotypes and misunderstanding and the project almost ends before it starts. They stick with it and through some very open discussion are able to continue. Each chapter addresses a different area of faith (prayer, rituals, death, etc.) I learned quite a lot that I didn't know about all three, and how they interact with each other. I learned that some of my assumptions about Islam are completely wrong. The parts about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict were the best, as it was finally written in terms I could understand. I've read about it before, but it's always been very political, this made it very personal and I could really understand both sides.

I have a copy of The History of God: The 4,000 year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam by Karen Armstrong on my shelf and hope to eventually get it read. I think it would be a nice follow up to this much more casual approach. I'm going to give The Faith Club a 4/5 because it lost steam for me at the end. Near the end the women have a strong relationship with each other and the last chapter is about their (new and improved) relationship with each respective religion. It becomes the kind of religious book that I don't like, but that many people love. This failing is due to my own beliefs, not the book, so if you're into that kinda thing, you'll love it.

I marked several passages in the book to mention here. The only one I'm going to post is from near the end, and is Suzanne responding to a question about Christian values vs. Jewish values. This is on page 289 of my copy, and is in one of Priscilla's sections.
"They're the same!" Suzanne said in her honest, straightforward way. "But I don't think everyone recognizes that. They confuse social values with Christian values. Or they see that our religious practices are different, so they assume our moral values are different, too. We should all be taught early on that our religions boil down to one morality: to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself."


  1. This isn't the type of book I'd ever read, but your review made me consider trying something different..

  2. This isn't the type of book I would normally read either. But you make it sound facinating! I may have to try it!

  3. I have seen this at the library, but have not taken it out yet. I find this type of thing fascinating. Even more fascinating is that they had the courage to keep the group going and learn from each other.

  4. This sounds really good! I will definitely have to add it to my wishlist. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  5. I loved this book and learned so much from it. Being a Christian, it was incredibly interesting to learn about what it is like to be Jewish or Muslim in today's society...not to mention how they can all relate back to each other.

  6. I was very interesting. The first 3/4 was better because there was more questioning and more conflicts and therefore more interesting.

  7. Not sure how I missed it, but thanks for pointing it out to me!
    Good review ... a lot of the passages about the similarities between religions really moved me too.
    I'm so glad they didn't break up the group when it got rocky because what a great read for the rest of us.


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