The Problem of 'Chosenness' in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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The Problem of 'Chosenness' in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

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Tuesday, February 1, 2005

The 2005 Sterling M. McMurrin Lecture on Religion and Culture 

All scriptural expressions of monotheism carry a deep sense of 'chosenness.' This includes not only the traditional expressions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, but virtually all groups that have emerged out of the orthodox expressions of these traditions. Although the idea of 'chosenness' exists in all these, it doesn't look the same in all religions. This has an impact on the world we live in. Can we live with 'our' and 'their' being 'chosen' simultaneously? 

Reuven Firestone, professor of Medieval Judaism and Islam at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, will deliver the 2005 McMurrin Lecture, The Problem of 'Chosenness' in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, on Thursday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. in the Salt Lake City Public Library Auditorium located at 210 East 400 South. Firestone directs the Edgar F. Magnin School for Graduate Studies and is the founding director of the Institute for the Study of Jewish-Muslim Interrelations. He will discuss the idea of 'chosenness' and the problems it creates for believers in the religious traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. 

"The notion of 'chosenness' in a religious context suggests that God has chosen one religious community as expressing the true divine will," says Firestone. "If that is the case, then other religious expressions would seem to be false. This is a very serious issue in historical conversation between religions," he says. "We are often given a double message. On the one hand, we are told that we should love the stranger and reach out to him or her. On the other, we are told that the religious stranger is in error about the divine will. Some of us are taught that the errant religious 'other' is destined for damnation! This tension needs to be addressed if we are to learn to live together in a shrinking world," he says. 

The McMurrin Lectures were established by the Obert C. and Grace A. Tanner Humanities Center and by friends of Sterling McMurrin. For more information on the lecture, call 581-7127. For more information on Sterling McMurrin, download a PDF about him at

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates leaders to serve North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding.