Friday, January 29, 2010

"tea with hezbollah" by ted dekker & carl medearis

Love your enemies. Love your neighbor as yourself. 

In Tea with Hezbollah: Sitting at the Enemies' Table, Our Journey Through the Middle East, authors Ted Dekker and Carl Medearis travel to the Middle East to find out how people feel about those teachings.

I began reading this book with great anticipation. I love Dekker's fiction, and I thought the concept for this book--visiting with America's "enemies" to learn about them as human beings--was genius. As someone who knows little about Islam, I was very interested to read about what Muslims believe and how that shapes their lives. At the end of the book, I realized that I hadn't learned much about Islam, mainly because the Muslims interviewed had such varying beliefs. (I suppose this is similar to many American "Christians" who claim to know God but have no idea what the Bible really teaches.)

I appreciated the authors' decision to reproduce full transcripts of their interviews because that really gave insight into the person being interviewed without any editorializing, unintentional or otherwise, by the authors. I also liked the variety of their interview subjects: Osama bin Laden's brothers, a member of Hamas, a Muslim cab driver, a Bedouin prince, an Orthodox Jew, a Samaritan leader, and numerous others. I tend to think of anyone who lives in the Middle East (with the exception of Israel) as Muslim, just as many who live in that region think of all Americans as Christian, so I appreciated hearing from people from a variety of religions. What I found especially interesting about the interviews was the way the interviewees answered Dekker's main question (phrased in different ways but always with the same basic meaning): "What do you think of Jesus' teaching that we should love our enemies?" Most of these people agreed that Jesus was a prophet and his commands should be followed--but when it came right down to it, only a few really believed in loving their enemies.

My favorite portion of the book was Nicole's story. Nicole is a young American woman who discovered she had roots in the Middle East. Dekker tells her story in seven chapters interspersed throughout the book. As I neared the completion of each chapter about Dekker and Medearis' journey, I always hoped a chapter about Nicole came next. Something about Nicole's story captivated my attention in a way the rest of the book did not.

And that's the book's downfall. While some people will love reading about Dekker and Medearis and their journey through the Middle East, I was frequently bored. As I said, I loved the interviews and the chapters about Nicole. But much of the book details the time between interviews--the travel through countries; the quest to score meetings with important people; Dekker's constant fear of being in the region. While I appreciate the necessity of those details--knowing what led up to each interview added to the impact--I still found them boring.

I would recommend reading Tea with Hezbollah for the glimpse it gives into the lives of Middle Easterners. But I'd also say not to feel bad if you find yourself skipping ahead to the more interesting parts!

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. You can purchase it here.

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