Who are the “real” chosen?

Scholars, clergy and seminarians gathered this past week in Los Angeles to discuss troubling passages and ideas in Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and ways of understanding them in modern times, as part of “Troubling Traditions: Wrestling With Problem Passages,” a conference co-sponsored by the Board of Rabbis of Southern California and the Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding of Sacred Heart University.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all have sacred texts that proclaim their community as “chosen,” singled out by God. Often these texts lie at the basis of bitter, and sometimes violent, conflicts.

Rabbi Mark S. Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, said that the point of the conference was not to find fault with others. “We should focus the troubling passages on in our own traditions, not to point out disturbing parts of other traditions.”

Conference sponsors hoped that by examining the problematic passages and their misuse over the centuries – from the Crusades to the Holocaust to the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Sept. 11 — they would bring about changes in the way religious leaders and communities interpret and act on the texts.

“Interfaith relations have to be more than just touchy-feely,” said Rabbi Stewart Vogel, president of the Board of Rabbis. By struggling with difficult issues, people gain a respect for other faiths and that translates into better interfaith relations.

Also, “if you push them to reflect on an issue with a new sensitivity, they will go back to their seminaries,” Vogel said, and teach it differently.

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