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THE FAITH CLUB by Ranya Idliby


A Muslim, a Christian, a Jew--Three Women Search for Understanding

by Ranya Idliby ; Suzanne Oliver & Priscilla Warner

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 2006
ISBN: 0-7432-9047-X
Publisher: Free Press

Three mothers’ engaging account of their interfaith dialogue.

At first glance, the authors don’t seem to have much in common. Idliby is a Muslim of Palestinian descent; Warner is a Reform Jew; Oliver grew up Catholic but was drawn to the more liberal Episcopal Church as an adult. Beneath those differences lie some important similarities: All three are mothers who want to teach their children religious tolerance, and each places great stock in her religious identity. In order to learn about the religious traditions of their neighbors, the authors came together to form a “faith club,” meeting regularly to discuss prayer and ritual, their beliefs about God and the relationship between spirituality and social justice. They never shy away from potentially explosive topics, such as the way that Christian descriptions of Jesus’ crucifixion have been used to provoke anti-Jewish violence, or the question of whether people can criticize Israeli policy without being accused of anti-Semitism. Over time, the women’s religious commitments evolved: Idliby, who had felt spiritually homeless, found a community of like-minded progressive American Muslims; Oliver began to question some of her commitments to classic Christian doctrine; and Warner became more comfortable praying to and talking about God. The three charming narrators transform potentially dry theological discourses into personal, intimate heart-to-hearts. For readers who wish they could pull up a chair and join Idliby, Oliver and Warner in their chats, the concluding chapter explains how to form your own faith club. The only weakness here is that all three authors represent decidedly liberal expressions of their religions. The conversations would have been even more interesting, albeit considerably more fraught, had they included an evangelical Christian or an Orthodox Jew or a Muslim woman who wears hijab.

An invitation to discussion that’s hard to turn down—and a natural for book groups.