Schneider, J. (2016). Jewish and Christian perspectives on chosen-ness. Compass: A Review of Topical Theology, 50 (1), 23-29.
Jewish and Christian dialogue, I suspect, is more than simply defending the other's right to express their particular religious tradition; we are also concerned with understanding what it means to be religious in the other's tradition.This means developing sensitivity to our different senses of shared notions.
One notion we share is 'chosen-ness'. The sense of being chosen by God—an experience in the biblical narratives of ancestral kinship, of kings, leaders, prophets appointed by God, or in Christian texts, of Mary among women, Peter among the apostles, Paul appointed by Jesus—can be uncomfortable. Sometimes it is more than uncomfortable. It becomes provocative when the corollary, 'you others are not chosen', is added, and it is particularly concerning when chosen-ness depends on an adversary. Finally, the idea of 'being chosen' has a negative connotation in certain contexts, such as the superiority (formerly) expressed by Western Christianised Europe, who used it to justify their programs of colonization and religious conversion.
In this article, I will explore chosen-ness in its various perceptions, hopefully, to arrive at some positives. I will do this in five stages: firstly by discussing the notion of the self, and how it develops from infancy and provides the 'capital' for religious faith, using Thérèse of Lisieux as an example. This will lead to the phenomenon of a sense of chosen-ness, and its exteriorization. I will then present Rabbi Plaut's discussion on some interpretations on chosen-ness in the Jewish tradition, followed by Christian interpretations, and finally, I will make some concluding observations.
Christian faith, Jewish faith, chosen-ness, self