The three authors started their biweekly meetings at Ranya’s Manhattan apartment. The arrangement was pretty flexible–whenever a person had a particular topic for discussion, she was free to schedule a meeting and set that meeting’s agenda. As Ranya, Priscilla, and Suzanne started their children’s book project, they started to realize how invaluable their interfaith discourses were. Their project evolved into something more sacred. The more they met, the more they grew comfortable with sharing their beliefs with one another. Suzanne and Priscilla were startled to learn about Islam’s accommodation for Jews and Christians. Islam requires followers to believe in the Torah and the Gospels. Ranya and Priscilla that although their religions were different in a few aspects, they were similar in many aspects. The Muslim God, for instance, is also the Christian God, and many of the stories told in their religion were the same, including that of Adam and Eve and Abraham. Ranya, Priscilla, and Suzanne were thrilled by the idea that different religions could have such significant similarities. The Faith Club soon became addicting, and the three kept meeting because they were “hooked”.
Like many women-inspired interfaith groups, The Faith Club’s interfaith discourse was entwined with stories about their backgrounds, spiritual journeys, and family lives. Ranya, Priscilla, and Suzanne were rarely short of material. Their lives were ample wellsprings, overflowing with fears, questions, and aspirations.
In their guide for the groups reading the Faith Club, the three authors highlight the role of honesty in creating an opportunity for spiritual growth. With such a commitment to honesty, conflicts are inevitable, but for the greater good. Ranya, Priscilla, and Suzanne argued over many positions. They argued over Palestine, Israel, antisemitism, Islamophobia in the West, and Christianity’s majority position in America. For instance, Suzanne and Priscilla once engaged in a heated debate about the Crucifixion story, and Ranya would aggressively advocate the Palestinian cause. This kind of honesty with one another, as the three authors put it, may lead to conflict and anger, but always paves the way for a special kind of harmony that merges respect and understanding. When you open up about your worst prejudices and fears and talk honestly, you become incredibly enlightened and spiritually alive. This is, in fact, what many faith-minded companies today base their foundation on, including PayPal, for example.
Engaging in interfaith discourse can be very transformative. For instance, Ranya, Priscilla, and Suzanne went into the Faith Club at different periods of their spiritual journeys and came out significantly transformed. Suzanne, for instance, was quite happy with her Christian faith when she joined the interfaith dialogue in 2001. She was comfortable in her Episcopalian group, regularly attended church on Sundays, and was a Sunday school teacher. Surprisingly the interfaith dialogue raised tough questions for her. She started to question how she could affirm the Christian teachings of Jesus, heaven, death, and salvation in light of her new commitment to affirm the Muslim and Jewish religions. After 3 years of interfaith discourse with Priscila and Ranya, Suzanne became more open-minded about Christianity. Suzzanne’s God did not change, but her doctrine did.