Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Faith Club

I just finished reading "The Faith Club," a book which recounts a long series of conversations among three women of different religions--Muslim, Jewish and Christian. The three came together to work on a project they believed would help children understand the aspects of their faith common to all of them.

They were surprised, shocked, and sometimes hurt when their discussions began to lead them down a path in which each of them had to admit their predjudices and assumptions about the others' faith. One by one they began to question their own beliefs and share their doubts. Eventually, each woman began to realize how their faith had actually been strengthened because of their willingness to wrestle with the questions. Then came the next difficulty. Each was surprised by the reactions within their communities caused by their newly defined expressions of faith and values. Each wondered if it was "safe" to speak openly and honestly about the assumptions they had left behind and the new ways they looked at issues of faith and politics.

One of the women found themselves more ready to discuss her faith when her young daughter drew a picture expressing one of the ways she wished the world was different. In the drawing, she stood apart from her classmates, the only Muslim child among classmates who were Christian and Jewish. This mother began to explain her faith with increased boldness after realizing how alienated her daughter felt. I wonder how I would be changed by participating in a faith club. I wonder what assumptions about other faiths I carry without concern for the ways in which my beliefs and actions add to the isolation of others. I wonder if there are aspects of my faith that I would begin to question if I were fully engaged in a mult-faith discussion.

I admire the authors' willingness to remain engaged in difficult conversations. One of the women offered this observation: . "I see now that faith is never free of contradictions, never as tidy as a textbook. It waxes and wanes, perplexes and inspires us. It is a gift from God, but like many of those gifts, its value increases according to the work you put into it. "