Friday, June 18, 2010

Book Review: "Tea With Hezbollah"

Title: Tea With Hezbollah
Authors: Ted Dekker & Carl Medearis
Published: New York, NY: Doubleday Religion, 2010, (258 pages).

The premise of the book is simple. Based on Jesus greatest commandments to his disciples, the authors, who are of the Christian faith attempt to test this teaching on non-Christians, in particular the Arab neighbours in the Middle East and Israel. Covering the three major monotheistic faiths; Islam, Judaism and Christianity and some of all their variants, the authors undertake a dangerous journey in war-torn Beirut, Jerusalem, Jordan, Egypt and several other undisclosed locations to find out. The results of the short interviews reveal striking differences in terms of the perceptions of Jesus' greatest commandment.

For Christians, it seem to be a given, and a taken-for-granted statement that the rest of the world should naturally understand. The courageous journeys into dangerous 'enemy' territory can be said to be foolish to some, bravery to others. While the Western world of Christianity generally assumes that Jesus' teaching is THE biggest thing, and that the rest of the world should respect, it will come as a shock that it is simply a peripheral teaching to others. While the West talks of love before all things, leaders from groups labeled by America as 'terrorists' talks about justice + love going hand in hand. In a nutshell, love is meaningless without the element of justice. It is like a man walking with 2 legs, each of equal importance. Western perceptions of Jesus' greatest teaching seem to be a limping image of walking on the one single leg of love. This one difference is the major reason why the West and the Middle East religions do not always see eye to eye.

I read this book on my flight back from Boston. It is an entertaining read, as it incorporates both real interviews with Islamic rebels as well as a fictional story of Nicole interspersed throughout the book in 7 separate chapters. While Nicole's story is fiction, it reveals a realistic portrayal of how war and ideologies can break up and separate families.

My Comments
This book is a good resource to balance the overly Westernized perception of people living in the Middle East. It tells us how much MIS-understanding Western people, even well-intentioned Christian people has of the Muslims, even the terrorists. The theme running throughout the book is that the rebels put on a posture of 'defense' more than invading others. They claim that Islam stands for peace and they wish no war or bad outcomes on others. Misunderstandings exist on both sides. Errors have been made on both sides. Wrong propaganda has been launched from both sides. In some ways, everyone of us are guilty of unfair perceptions.

I think a mediator may be necessary to bridge the ideology divide. In the presence of a third party, feuding parties may be more willing to put down their animosity or prejudices in order to explain in a fair manner to the neutral party. If trying to understand each other is the solution to peace between the Islamic world and the West, it would have been done much earlier. Talking about it is one thing. The practical details are another. That is why countries such as China or India can play a big role in bridging the gap.

This book tries to correct negative perceptions arising from the Western thinking on the Islamic society. It aims to show that these groups do not seem to be reading on the same page. This is an entertaining and warm book. For we are all humans.


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