Influenced by the 2006 book, The Faith Club: A Muslim, a Christian, and a Jew–Three Women Search for Understanding, the Faith Club Reading Group takes members through a spiritual journey that allows them to explore their ideas about religion, as well as those of others. The Faith Club began when Ranya Idliby, an American Muslim born in Kuwait, Priscilla warner, a Jew, and Suzanne Oliver, a Christian, came together for discourse about their three faiths. As the meetings started, it became apparent that the three authors had their own struggle with religion. They needed a safe space to air their concerns, accept their ignorance, and make an inquiry into their faiths. Ranya, Priscilla, and Suzanne started to have regular meetings to talk about their religion and beliefs and to explore tough questions about their faiths. As they met for these discussions, there were no awkward moments of silence–no periods when they didn’t have anything to say to one another. The fundamental rule of the Faith Club was honesty, and with this as the foundation for their discourse, no subject was off-limits. The process was characterized by moments of courage, pain, and even tears, but was worthwhile. Ranya, Priscilla, and Suzanne’s experiences inside the Faith Club’s safe haven completely transformed them. They learned a lot of powerful lessons from their spiritual journey and decided to share with the rest of the world.
The Faith Club offers an engaging account of interfaith discourse. The discourse between Ranya, Priscilla, and Suzanne is thoughtful and authentic. They teach us that the more we strive to be honest with one another, the more we grow to respect each other’s integrity and trust each other’s motives. The Faith Club reading group allows one to increase their knowledge about faith, doubt, life, death, community, and individualism. The story of conviction and friendship between Ranya, Priscilla, and Suzanne offer hope for a peaceful humanity. The Faith Club reading group offers a forward step in understanding and learning how to accommodate different faiths in the increasingly multi-religious American society. The Faith Club reading group fosters religious harmony and inspires people to take similar steps in advancing this cause. In essence, the Faith Club reading group is about challenging oneself and each other about the meaning of being human, the meaning of life, the meaning of being American, the meaning of religion, and believing or not believing in God. It is about examining the opinion one holds about others–opinions we regularly talk about without recognizing it. It’s about examining the prejudices and stereotypes that have played a considerable role in our lives since we were children and acknowledging that those attitudes influence our world view today. And, this is something that can be beneficial to anyone. What follows is their story.
In the months following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Ranya Idliby’s daughter came home from school curious about whether they celebrated Christmas or Hanukkah. It was then that Ranya, an American Muslim of Palestinian descent, realized that she needed to educate her children about being a Muslim in America. Ranya and Suzzanne’s children used to go to the same school, and this is how they had come to know each other. One day as they waited for the school bus at the bus stop, Ranya asked Suzzanne whether she would be interested in writing a children’s book about Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, and she agreed. Suzzanne, excited about the project, recruited Priscilla Warner, a Jew, to participate in the project.