“Us, and them. And after all we’re only ordinary men.” – ‘Us and Them’, Pink Floyd, Roger Waters
Using passive voice is a great thing, a must for skillful politicians and salesmen. “Promised Land” and “Chosen People” are both amazing expressions without needing to explain who promised and who chose.
So, who are God’s chosen people? In what way are they chosen? The answer depends of-course on whom you ask. Many faithful Christians will say that the Jews used to be the chosen ones, until they abandoned the real faith, thus “the truth abandoned them and took refuge in the Church” (St. Ambrose). Many religious Jews simply know they’ve never ceased to be the “chosen ones”. Some of them may even explain about the myth of the Jewish genius. The faithful Muslims, not very surprisingly, seem to know a whole different story of choice.
Certain Melanists believe that the black pigment called melanin, in our skin, contributes to our intellect and spirituality. Guess who promotes this theory? You guessed right – this theory is promoted mainly by some black people. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK), on the other hand, believes that white people are inherently superior to any other race, and that they are following the Bible in doing God’s work. In fact, they’ve often used the religious symbol of the cross for various activities… The Nazis believed that the Aryan race was superior, and acted to exterminate supposedly inferior races such as the Jews.
Rest assured, each of the above has brought a wealth of evidence to support the appropriate claims. Yet, there are a few interesting questions to be asked in this context.
Does God check your genes? Or is it your behavior that determines your being chosen? According to St. Ambrose mentioned above, it’s clearly the behavior of the Jewish people that disqualified them from being “chosen”. According to the Orthodox Jews, there is a clear option to join the chosen group by going through the process of proper conversion to Judaism. What’s a proper conversion? Ahhh… weeks of Israeli parliamentary activity has been spent on this issue.
According to Jewish Orthodoxy, the definition of a Jew is someone whose mother is a Jew, or someone who has been converted to Judaism the Orthodox way. Every experienced software programmer will tell you the problems concerned with the recursive nature of this definition. In simple words: Verifying the Jewish-ness of the mother is in essence the same task all over again.
It gets more complicated, since, for instance, an Orthodox Jew will not consider the conversion process done by a Reform rabbi as proper (but not necessarily the other way around). Conversely, for Muslims, the chosen genes are generally attached to the father. This may of-course raise various flavors of strange situations when one parent is officially Jewish, and the other is Muslim.
However, if Judaism is generally inherited, it makes one wonder how come Jews from African countries are darker? And why is there a large percentage of Jews with blonde hair in Russia? Evolution doesn’t work that fast. Apparently, whilst the Israeli parliament and its religious parties were not watching, there have been some, well, you know…
Racism is bad – most people will tell you this. Yet this confusion between genes and way of life has been known to produce false accusations of racism. For example: Is it okay to criticize certain religious beliefs and customs, or is it racism? Does Islam, just as an example, represent a race of people (or several specific races), and it is therefore wrong to speak against? Do the ultra-Orthodox Jews constitute a race, or is it valid to claim they’re wrong and criticize their habits? And what about the Amish? The Zulu? Others?
The question is not purely theoretical – it may have practical implications: If I run a factory that needs seven-day shift workers, is it legitimate to reject the candidacy of an Orthodox Jew who refuses to work on the Sabbath? How come it’s considered okay, for the wine industry in Israel, to employ solely Orthodox Jewish men in the wine manufacturing process (in this case, for the employees not to work on the Sabbath is one of the requirements, in order to get the kosher stamp for the wine)?