Ranya, Priscilla and Suzanne -- three women, three faiths, taking off the politically correct gloves and getting real -- respectfully and in the context of friendship, yet holding no punches.
Ranya struggles with feeling left out and even banished (referencing the Judeo-Christian interpretation of the story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar & Ishamel,as well as personal experience) from the monotheistic club/conversation, as well as the more conservative expressions of Islam. She pleas for a recognized Judeo-Christian-Muslim tradition, instead of just a Judeo-Christian tradition.
Priscilla struggles with intense identification and fear related to the Holocaust and doubts about the existence of God, as well as with how to stand up for Palestinian rights within Jewish community.
Suzanne struggles with how she is perceived as a member of the majority faith as well with her own (previously unconscious) stereotypes and sense of spiritual superiority.
Together, three women come to recognize how sacred scriptures of all faith traditions are used at times in ways that engender intimacy with God and mutual appreciation of neighbor, and at other times in ways the foster a sense of one "people" being superior, endowed with the right to even commit violence in the name of God, or a promise of God found in the scriptures or taught by religious leaders. Priscilla finds God, Ranya finds validation and Suzanne embraces more ambiguity, along with a new sense of sisterhood with Ranya and Priscilla.After Suzanne admits that she was uncomfortable being mistaken for a Jew, a lively, honest discussion of stereotypes ensues (chapter 5) and Priscilla pushes Suzanne to explore her stereotypes of Jewish people.Suzanne: "Alright, I sighed. "I guess it's someone who is pushy. And, well, someone who cares very much about money. And then there's the Woody Allen neuroticism."Priscilla: "Suzanne, two out of those three things justified the Holocaust...You know whenever there's a scandal on Wall Street, we Jews say, please God, don't let it be a Jew! We're paranoid about the stereotype of Jews obsessed with accumulating money."Suzanne: "Do you think that stereotype is a vestige of the Jewish struggle against persecution?" I wondered. "Wealth and Education are two ways to ensure survival when you're being persecuted."Priscilla: "Could be," Priscilla said wit ha shrug.1) Imagine a stereotype you have of a group of people who live in your community. Lift it up to God and open yourself to new understandings. If continue to feel there is a grain of truth in a generalization (positive or negative) about a group of people, what factors, such as pain, fear or persecution might have given rise to certain patterns as a survival mechanism? Ranya states, "I think Muslims and Arabs are now the only groups in our society about whom other people think they can make racial slurs and jokes without being labeled racists."2) How does America's fear of the militant forms of Islam impact our ability to treat Muslim people with honor and care?3) What might Jewish and Muslim people look to in Christian scriptures, and in the words of Christian leaders that might make them afraid that Christianity is a violent religion?
4) How do you feel (viscerally/emotionally/physically/mentally) when in the presence of a Jewish or Muslim person? How do you feel about your own feelings?5. Ranya describes some of the positive contributions of the Muslim people to western culture: Preserving the classics, discovering/creating algebra, inventing the maps used by Christopher Columbus to find America. Are these facts new to you?Priscilla describes her impression of Christians: "I think of Christians as good people, but we don't need the propaganda." 6)What does she mean? Have you ever found yourself engaging in "Christian propaganda"?7)Is Christian Propaganda different from evangelism or sharing the Good News?
Labels: Book Discussions, Community, Culture, Spiritual Formation, The Faith Club, Theology