I was given the opportunity to review Tea with Hezbollah by Ted Dekker and Carl Medaris. The following is my review:
If you have read any of Ted Dekker’s novels, you are aware that you won’t ever pick one up and find a normal read. Ted probably has one of the most imaginative minds in all of evangelical literature. Some of his work, especially his latest stuff, has tended to the dark side and has turned off some evangelical readers. Nevertheless, Ted is a first-class writer and an excellent wordsmith.
So when I was given the opportunity to review his nonfiction work, Tea with Hezbollah, I jumped at the chance.
It’s an interesting read. On one level, it’s a remarkable sort of travelogue into the world of some of America’s feared enemies. Ted interviews leaders in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Cairo, Syria, and Palestine. He met with leaders of Hezbollah, Hamas, and many of the most influential Muslim clerics in the world.
I came away with a profound sense of the complexity of the Arab world. It’s a world too many Americans and too many Christians sort of put together in a caricature as “radical Islam,” as though every single Arab and every single Muslim is dangerous and a terrorist. That is a paper-thin assessment.
Ted does well to dive into the complexities of Islam and also the struggles of Christians who live in Muslim worlds. To his credit, Ted doesn’t claim to be an expert in their theology or in their culture. He’s merely an observer and a scared one at that.
I give him enormous credit for traveling where few will go. I mean many Christians won’t even go to Israel, where it is much safer than some of the places Ted traveled. But we ignore that part of the world to our peril and I think it does a great disservice to the Body of Christ if we marginalize those areas as being unreachable or unlovable.
So I recommend Ted’s book as a beginning education on the complexities of the Middle East. However, there was a thread that ran through this book that bothered me greatly as an evangelical Christian who holds to the truth of Scripture.
Ted’s entire thesis is that the three major religions–Muslim, Jewish, Christian struggle to practice the words of Jesus, which are to love your neighbor. He claims many times that these radical words are why they killed Jesus. But this is really not faithful to Scripture. Jesus was killed because HE claimed to be the Son of God, the Savior of the world. Jesus was killed because Jesus laid down his life for the salvation of mankind’s sin. Jesus died for the Gospel. Not to be a Gandhi-like figure that would sit everyone in a wonderful circle and make sure they got along. In fact, Jesus said he came not to bring peace, but a sword.
Ted also seems to think here is symmetry between the world religions. A creeping universalism courses through this book. If you read this, you might easily come away thinking that all religions have merit, all are valid paths to God.
Lastly, I think his diagnosis of the world’s root problems is simplistic and, I might say, unscriptural. True, Christians have done things in the name of Christ that are horrific. Christians have committed atrocities. But the root problem of the world is sin, began in the Garden and continuing to weave its destructive path through history. And the world hates Christianity, primarily because Jesus predicted we would be hated. Not because there is something wrong with our faith or because we haven’t been nice. The solution for the world’s ills is the Gospel and the future for the world is peace, but only the peace brought when Jesus, the Prince of Peace returns.
So do I recommend this book? I do actually. Not for its theology, but for the incredible insights Ted and Carl bring to the Arab world. Christians ought not to be caught up in irrational hatred of certain people groups, no matter how easy and humorous that is. We should be compelled by the love of Christ to see these people won over with the Gospel. We should be active in building up the faith of Christian brothers and sisters who suffer in these lands.
So read Tea with Hezbollah, but read with Biblical discernment.