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Sources of the sense of chosenness


Guidelines for Critical Dialogue between Worldviews: as exemplified by the need for non-antisemitic dialogue with Israelis? (Part #4)


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The previous section gives a sense of the varieties of "chosenness". Clearly the source of this sense may derive from any of the following, in isolation or in combination:

  • divinity: namely where God is understood to have appointed a people or a person as specially "Chosen"; in the case of individuals this may take the form of being "born again"
  • inborn talent: where it is a matter of skill, this may well be inherited or inborn, notably with the "specially gifted" -- possibly to be understood as the consequence of reincarnation
  • education / training: qualifications of the highest degree may be acquired through successful pursuit of an educational pathway, which may include physical and mental endurance (notably as in military training)
  • social circumstances: birth into a well-positioned family (with a large inheritance), or a social group, may nurture a sense of having been chosen for a particular role in life (as with dynastic inheritance such as royalty); being "at the right place, at the right time" may also lead to a sense of having been chosen by circumstances; in certain cultures, birth under auspicious circumstances may be a significant factor, if not the primary one (as with selection of the Dalai Lama)
  • appointment / election: leaders of every kind may be chosen by those who wish to follow them or by the previous holder of a mantle of authority -- possibly perceived to be in fulfillment of prophecy
  • inner sense: individuals may be persuaded of their self-worth, or unique destiny, through subjective processes, including dreams and delusions; some occupants of mental asylums consider themselves to be specially chosen
  • creativity: a creative breakthrough in some area (music, technology, etc) may result in the development of a sense of self-worth
  • promotion: commercial and political processes may result in the promotion of an individual into celebrity status
  • ritual: secret societies may offer initiation rituals (including hazing) that progressively enhance the status of the individual through a hierarchical system within an elite
  • invitation: an individual may be invited into an elite group
  • luck / fate: especially problematic is where a combination of circumstances selects one or more individuals, notably in unfortunate cases of scapegoating (being chosen for victimhood), criminal framing, mistaken identity, accident and the like; this sense of having been chosen is typically associated with the question "why me"; individuals can be arbitrarily selected in this way "to make an example"
  • commitment: however triggered, commitment to a cause may be transmuted into a belief in having effectively been "chosen" to complete it (as with, on a larger scale, the myth underlying the faith-based intervention by the Coalition of the Willing)

In addition to the religious sense of being "chosen" through being "born again", other variants of this process may also be considered significant (cf Varieties of Rebirth: distinguishing ways of being "born again", 2004). The sense of being chosen is of course of particular relevance in the case of acts of life endangering courage -- or of suicide bombers.


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