The Problem of Writing about Prayer

Jan. 31 2022

After a Jew takes three steps forward, utters the words “My Lord, open my lips, and let my mouth tell of your praises,” and begins the silent devotion known as the Amidah, Jewish tradition expects the worshipper to enjoy complete intimacy with the Creator. Are these moments translatable from one person to another, let alone from one religion to another? John Wilson, a Christian, addresses the first part of this question in his review of Romantic Prayer: Reinventing the Poetics of Devotion, 1773-1832:

I have often wanted to write about prayer in various contexts but have done so only rarely, in part because I often feel great disjunction between my own experience of prayer and what many people say about it—not only in books, but in conversation, in church, and in many other settings. I hasten to add that I don’t simply assume that this sense of disjunction means that what other people say or write is wrong! In fact, one reason I read is to be reminded of the infinite variety of human experience, including “religious experience.”

I read all of Stokes’s book (relatively short, but with small print and densely argued) in this mood of exasperation. But then again, I am often irritated, baffled, or otherwise dissatisfied with what I read or hear people saying about prayer, even as I remind myself how different our experiences of prayer may be from one another.

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Read more at First Things

More about: Prayer

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela