Many Are Chosen: Divine Election and Western Nationalism

Hutchison, William R. and Hartmut Lehmann. Many Are Chosen: Divine Election and Western Nationalism. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity International Press, 1994.

Many Are Chosen, edited by Harvard Divinity School professor William Hutchison and Harmut Lehmann of the Max Planck Institute for Historical Studies in Gottingen, Germany, surveys the impact that the biblical language of election or “chosenness” had in the formation of nine national ideologies during the high imperial era of 1880-1920. Though much research has rightly focused on the American configuration of a divinely-guided national identity and mission, the book finds that the United States is not alone in history in defining itself as God’s specially chosen people. As Hutchison remarks in the book’s Introduction, the essays contained within support a common supposition among previous writers on chosen people themes that most peoples with a “national” identity have considered themselves “divinely chosen to a special destiny.” <p> The editors group the essays into two main areas: Part I (“Chosen Imperialists”) features those nations or peoples where national expansion and religion appear conjoined; and Part II (“Counterpoint: Suffering Servants and Unchosen People”) looks at those in which one or both elements of the equation is missing. Contributors and their critical respondents explore the nationalist ideologies of: Great Britain (A. F. Walls and W. R. Ward); France (Thomas Kselman and Caroline Ford); Germany (Harmut Lehmann and Conrad Cherry); South Africa (Andre du Toit and Conor Cruise O’Brien); United States (James H. Moorhead and Knud Krakau); African Americans (Albert J. Raboteau and Silke Lehmann); Israel (Paul Mendes-Flohr and Robert T. Handy); Sweden (Stephen A. Mitchell, Alf Tergel and Knut Aukrust); and Switzerland (Ulrich Gabler and Robert P. Ericksen). <p> The essays address five questions first posed at a June 1991 project conference on “Chosen People Themes in Western Nationalist Movements.” These questions are: (1) Was some notion of national or ethnic chosenness operative in this particular society or group during the period under discussion? (2) If so, what form(s) did this take? (3) To what extent was the “Old Testament” covenant transferred and used as a model for describing a modern “chosen people” proceeding under a new (or continuing, or revised) covenant? (4) Which social and political groups utilized or supported this chosen people rhetoric, and what were the means by which it was propagated? (5) If a concept of chosenness is not evident in this case, or not important, what sort of rhetoric was used, or was primary?