the faith clubI have a long history with this book. I first picked it up from the library half a year ago and was not able to go through it, so I returned it promptly after three weeks. A month ago someone mentioned the book to me at a party. A week after that, the minister in my church mentioned the book in a sermon. A day after that I found out that there is a book discussion about the book also and that was when I picked it up again from the library. And I found in it, waiting, a preschool card of my daughter’s which I hadn’t even realized I had lost. I was probably using it as a bookmark. So, you know, some faith was involved in the story of me and this book.

It is about three women of different faiths (Muslim, Christian, Jewish) who meet, discuss, confront their own stereotypes about each other’s religion, about other beliefs. I live in this book. I am surrounded by people of different faiths. I am married to a Hindu, we have a lot of Buddhist interests and practices, some of my close friends are Muslim and actually I do not have any other Christian Orthodox around since moving away from Romania. True, I am not very close to any Jewish person, but you cannot have it all, right? So, obviously, I thought that this book would feel very familiar and close. But it was not exactly like that.

I felt that they started from a very different point, where they actually knew very little of each other’s faith. I don’t know if that is very common or more rare, but that was not where I was starting. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t find out many new things about these religions. No. I had many revelations and I also had to face some of my own prejudices. For example, I found out how easily it can be for a muslim woman, in the context of Islam, to justify not wearing a head scarf or drinking alcohol. I have also heard once a muslim woman beautifully defending the head scarf to the point where she almost made me want to wear one.  I found out how Jewish people are still living with a deep fear of persecution and still identify strongly with the tragedies like the Holocaust. How that is so deeply ingrained in them, and they still have to live with that every day.

What this book made me feel strongly though is how much we all just want acceptance. How much we want to feel free to be ourselves, to practice our own brand of faith and not feel ashamed or shunned. And it made me realize how all the faiths are transforming and evolving and how we are all searching every single day for what makes sense for us, what helps us.

It left me wanting more, though, I cannot deny that. It made me feel like the discussion just cannot stop there, at the “religions of the Book,” because there are billions of people out there in the world who have other beliefs and they should be given a voice in this dialogue too. But it is a good start. A very good start.