Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Two Christian Books on the Middle East from 2010

I had considered doing two separate posts on these books, but since they do contain similar subject matter, I felt it appropriate to just write one. The first book is by fiction best-seller Ted Dekker and Middle East expert Carl Medearis titled, "Tea with Hezbollah: Sitting at the enemies' table, our journey through the Middle East." The second book is by Mosab Hasan Yousef, the son of one of the seven founders of Hamas and his book is appropriately titled, "Son of Hamas." book was really a fascinating read. Take one of the most suspenseful writers of Christian fiction today, pair him up with an American Christian who's lived in the Middle East for the past 20 years, and send them on a journey through the heart of the Arab lands to meet with many of the movers and shakers of Islam. Starting with Cairo, Dekker and Medearis travel through Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and finally end in Israel/Palestine. At the heart of all this is the question that is being posed to the people they meet, "What do you think about Jesus' teaching on the greatest commandments, to love God and love your neighbors?"

They were also looking for a modern day Samaritan, comparable to the one in Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan. Throughout the book is weaved a story about such a Samaritan, though several things in the story hint at it being a product of Dekker's imagination, but I'll leave that up to you, should you decide to read the book. That being said, there are no real clear answers to issues in the Middle East, as I expected. Having been to some of the places that the authors visited, however, was interesting to read about.

Dekker speaks a lot about his own fears in going and in the end, I believe he was changed for it. The answers given them on Jesus' teaching were as I expected. The Muslims revere Jesus as prophet and acknowledge that his teachings are good. Practically, we all know that they are hard to implement without the Holy Spirit to guide us. Many may think that the book ends with a shrug. I found that this should have been expected. Even as I write this, U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are meeting in Washington, D.C. Will they be able to solve anything regarding the Palestinian state? I doubt it, and so do our authors. What will solve the issues in the Middle East? If you were looking to this book for the answer, you will be disappointed. While there are some fascinating people that they met, a V.P. at a Muslim university, a Saudi prince, a top leader in Hezbollah, a leader in Hamas, a Palestinian Christian peace activist, an ethnic Samaritan, only a few offered a hint at how problems could be solved. It does involve loving our neighbors as ourselves. It involves praying for our enemies. My recommendation is to read this book, but read it with the understanding that solutions won't be easy to come by. Don't feel duped by the unexpected. But read it to get a feel for what the perceived enemies of Israel are feeling.

The next book I will be talking about goes deeper into the Arab world and offers more of an insider's look than the previous. There are some controversies that have risen of late and I have written about it, but those controversies have come from someone who can't be trusted to begin with. Please keep this in mind. I really enjoyed both of these books and finished each in about three days a piece. I would love to meet the author of the following book and just get to know him. there is one book worth reading right now, it is this one. I could not put this one down. Mosab Hassan Yousef is the son of a Hamas leader, and very well could have become a top Hamas leader himself. In fact, I believe many in the West Bank considered him to be a top Hamas leader, before he outed himself as a Shin Bet collaborator and a Christian, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Yousef is only a couple of years younger than me (I turn 35 this year), but has grown up in a completely different world than mine. His was one of Israeli tanks rumbling down the street, stone throwers being shot and killed, and his father heading up Islamic teaching in the mosque. He seems to take up for his father a lot in the book, and we never see a side of his father that the Western media might portray. We see Hamas through Yousef's eyes as an organization that originally was to try to steer it's people back to a relationship with Allah.

Despite Yousef's father's attempts, Hamas chose violence. Through Yousef's arrests, he saw the dark side of Hamas and decided their violence was just as repulsive as the Israeli's shooting of stone throwers. While in prison, Yousef is approached by the Shin Bet (Israel's internal secret service) to spy for them. After some careful thought, Yousef agrees. What follows could have come from the pages of a spy novel, but it happened in real life. Yousef gives us a lot of inside information that we will never see in the Western media, such as the Palestinian Authority (formerly the PLO) is essentially secular, whereas Hamas is religious. I knew that, but many of the readers may not have known that. So, when someone talks of PLO Islamic terrorism, they don't know what they're talking about.

Weaved throughout this story is Yousef's own tale of how he became a Christian. He had met a group of Christians in Jerusalem who invited him to a Bible study. Through a Bible obtained, he began reading the teachings of Jesus. As he continued in his work for the Shin Bet, the teachings of Jesus started guiding his work. He wouldn't allow the Shin Bet to assassinate people, for example. He began to be changed into the image of Christ until eventually he was baptized in the Mediterranean outside Tel Aviv.

He had finally enough of the lies and deception and decided to leave. The Shin Bet were reluctant, but eventually let him come to the U.S. where he now lives in San Diego. Some may question him on whether he is pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian, but he declares that he is neither. That's a problem with Western Christianity in that if one doesn't declare to be pro-Israel, then they must be anti-Semitic, possibly not a Christian, and a liberal. Western Christianity is wrong in this regard, and I wish that they would allow Yousef to grow in Christ rather than force him to follow one wind of doctrine or another. As far as I can tell, Yousef is the real deal, both from reading this book and reading his blog. I pray that he continues to grow in faith and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I pray for his family that has disowned him to also to come to faith. I know that he would appreciate your prayers.

At the heart of both of these books is Jesus' command to love our enemies. If faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, what better way to take faith to our enemies if not by loving them. The Muslims today seem to be the Samaritans of Jesus' day. We hate them, even despise them. We protest their mosque building. We call them names, such as "Thug in Chief" and "ragheads." Is this Christ-like? These books go together really well with regards to peacemaking. Let us throw of the shackles of bigotry and hate and love people as Christ loved people. What better way to make disciples of all nations than to love our enemies?