Chosen Peoples, Chosen Nation

This course will examine a range of social, political and philosophical issues surrounding the concept of “chosenness”—the belief that a particular community (usually one’s own) has been singled out by God for some special favor or purpose. We will trace the roots of this concept in the Hebrew Bible, and examine a number of religious communities (including orthodox Jews, Puritan settlers, Black Hebrew Israelites, and the Christian Identity movement) who have claim-ed divine chosenness through narratives of Israelite descent. Above all, however, we will examine the role of chosenness in popular understandings of American national identity—tracing the history of United States claims to be a “chosen nation,” and exploring the way these claims may shape contemporary American foreign policy.


This syllabus was created for the Young Scholars in American Religion program.

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