Religion & Philosophy Department

Lebanon Valley College

Does God Exist? A Conversational Debate




debate posterThe Department of Religion and Philosophy at Lebanon Valley College will host a conversational debate between Dr. Michael Kitchens, associate professor of psychology, and Dr. Matthew Sayers, associate professor of religion, on Wednesday, Nov. 19, from 7-8:30 p.m., in Leedy Theater of the Mund College Center. The event is free and open to the public, and will also be streamed via a live webcast available at https://meetings.webex.com/collabs/#/meetings/detail?uuid=M5UTGHK6V7VKCEE2OS8Z0MDM2N-2CDR&rnd=721590.51215.

In conjunction with the course REL 311: The God Debate, of which Kitchens and Sayers are co-instructors, the informal debate is intended to engage the perennial debate about the existence of God and touch upon the key themes that thinkers have considered in the ongoing effort to understand the big questions of life. Dr. Jeffrey Robbins, professor of religion and chair of the Department, will serve as the moderator.

Kitchens will be arguing from a Christian perspective that the Triune God of the Bible exists, and the only way one can accurately and cohesively make sense of reality is by taking into account God’s existence and God’s covenantal relationship with His creation.

Kitchens has been a member of the LVC faculty for seven years. He teaches introductory courses in psychology, introductory and advanced research courses, specialty-area courses in social psychology and the science of emotion, as well as specialty-courses in the general education program. Kitchens received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Mobile, and earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Mississippi. His training is in experimental social psychology. His research interests are in processes of the self, emotion, and the application of psychology to faith.

Sayers will be arguing the atheist position. He will be arguing that the concept of God is inherently incoherent, religious expressions of the divine are internally contradictory, and that it is almost always unreasonable to believe in God.

Sayers has been a member of the LVC faculty for six years. He teaches courses on a wide variety of topics including courses on death, evil, God, race and religion, various religious traditions, religious studies methods, courses on scripture, and Sanskrit. Sayers received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and earned his master’s degree at Florida State University and his Ph.D. at The University of Texas at Austin. His research focuses on the traditional of ancestral ritual in Hinduism.

LVC Celebrates Rosh Chodesh

Rosh Chodesh. ReimersBy Chris Sholly
chrissholly@ldnews.com @cgsholly on Twitter

ANNVILLE » A Lebanon woman was honored at Lebanon Valley College during the Rosh Chodesh Banquet in the Mund College Cen- ter Sunday evening.

Sarah “Sussy” Schneider, a leading mem- ber of Congregation Beth Israel in Lebanon, was recognized for that leadership and many contributions to the Jewish community in Lebanon County. She is the wife of former city Mayor Dr. Martin Schneider, who died May 29, 2005.

“Over the years, she has contributed much time and energy to many worthwhile community causes, including her devotion to Head Start, the (Good Samaritan Hospi- tal) Auxiliary, Boost and the Cub Scouts,” said Judy Horowitz, a member of Congre- gation Beth Israel.

For many years, Horowitz said, women were not considered equal to men in most synagogues, until the 1970s. She said Schneider was a leader who brought about many changes to the local community, one of which was the counting of women in a minyan. The minyan is a quorum of 10 Jew- ish adults required for certain religious obligations.

“She truly pioneered the role of women in what had always been a male-dominated group,” she said.
Schneider was the first woman to be a trustee of the congregation and chairwoman of the Rituals Committee, as well as the first woman president of the entire Congregation Beth Israel, Horowitz said.

Horowitz quoted another congregation member who described Schneider as “the glue that holds us together.”

Horowitz said Schneider’s daughter, Wendy Schneider-Levinson of Rockville, Md., is very active in the Jewish community where she lives.

“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” Horowitz said. As it turns out, Horowitz and her husband were founding members of the congregation in which daughter is active.

“This is Sussy’s enduring legacy. The example she has set for future generations in her family and the larger community, and the path that she has helped to forge for all women,” she added.
Schneider, 87, said she was surprised by the honor.
“It means all the work and worrying, and sometimes aggravation, is worthwhile. I would do anything for our synagogue,” she said. “I’ll be in it until the end.”

But Schneider added that she enjoys vol- unteering.
“I enjoy every minute of what I do,” she said. “It rubbed off on my daughter.”
Like her husband, Schneider said she believes in giving back to the community.

“He believed, and I believe, that people have to do things for the community. He called it payback.”

Rosh Chodesh is the celebration of the new month in the Jewish calendar. It’s one of many events the college hosts, said LVC chaplain Paul Fullmer. “What we love to do is to gather folks around good food, good music, a lot of fun and a little bit of learning related to a vari- ety of holidays, so that we can facilitate in- terfaith understanding,” Fullmer said.
Initially, Rosh Chodesh was a “big festival,” but in time it became a holiday recognizing women’s contributions to the com- munity, according to Rabbi Paula Reimers of Congregation Beth Israel in Lebanon. Re- imers gave a brief presentation on the history of Rosh Chodesh during the event Sunday.

The program also included a game called All Things Jewish, styled after the popular TV show Jeopardy.

LVC student Diana Hoffman, a member the college’s Jewish student organization Hillel, helped to come up with the questions for the game. Hoffman said she enjoyed being involved in planning the festivities.“To see everyone who has come and hearing music that I know, and also to be able to help with it, really means a lot to me,” she said.

2014 Commencement

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It was a bittersweet graduation season for the Department of Religion and Philosophy. Not only did we graduate one of our largest classes in recent memory (Marquis Bey, Ashley Ferrari, Daniel Kimmel, Dylan Matusek, and Colleen Smith), but also the most honored. Three of the five graduates from the department graduated Summa Cum Laude; one with a perfect 4.0 GPA. Both Daniel Kimmel and Ashley Ferrari were singled out by the college in profile stories that showcased them as model, even inspirational, students. Click here to read the full story on Daniel: http://www.lvc.edu/News/index.aspx?newsid=6a7e2e55-3390-4e82-a123-d6edcfef44c0&HeadLine=Daniel%20Kimmel. Click here to read the full story on Ashley: http://www.lvc.edu/News/index.aspx?newsid=4e4bab36-ef19-447a-ad3b-7e30bbf5b68c&HeadLine=Cultivating%20a%20Love%20of%20Learning%20of%20Wonder:%20Ashley%20Ferrari%20’14

Also, at the Commencement ceremony, the department swept the college awards: Marquis Bey was named the recipient of the H. Anthony Neidig Award as the most outstanding student of his graduating class. Rabbi Paul Reimers was given the Nevelyn J. Knisley Award for Inspirational Teaching. This is the annual teaching award that is given to the most outstanding adjunct instructor at the college. And last but not least, Dr. Matt Sayers was given the Thomas Rhys Vickroy Distinguished Teaching Award, which is the college’s most prestigious annual teaching award. Dr. Sayers was awarded the Vickroy on the basis of his excellence in the classroom and the various co-curricular initiatives he has led. In the ceremony announcing his award, he was proclaimed “an educational innovator—a gifted, dedicated, and impactful teacher with a firm grasp of course design and effective teaching pedagogies, and a commitment to the continuous reevaluation and improvement of his teaching to enhance student learning.” You can read more about the commencement ceremony and the various awards from the LVC homepage at http://www.lvc.edu/News/index.aspx?newsid=904e2723-b430-46a3-b9f3-3a9a909ef40e.

Academic Honors

inquiry 2014

On Thursday, April 10th, Lebanon Valley College enjoyed a day-long celebration of student learning. The day’s events were a culmination of INQUIRY 2014, and included the distribution of academic awards and scholarships.

The department’s first award was given to Alyssa Nissley. Alyssa was the recipient of the G.A. Richie Memorial Ministerial Scholarship Award. This award is given annually to a major in the Department of Religion and Philosophy on the basis of academic achievement and financial need, in memory of Dr. G.A. Richie, former professor of Bible and Greek at Lebanon Valley College.

The second award was given to Daniel Kimmel. Daniel was given the The Martha U. Peiffer and Dr. Harold S. Peiffer ’42 Award in Religion as the Outstanding Senior in Religion.

The third award was given to Marquis Bey. Marquis was given the Donald E Byrne, Jr. Award for Undergraduate Research. This award is named in honor of Professor Don Byrne for his decades of exemplary teaching, which combined inspiration interdisciplinarity, and rigor with the highest of expectations. To be given to the Religion or Philosophy student who has distinguished him/herself the most through undergraduate research.

The fourth award was given to Ashley Ferrari. Ashley was given th Award of Excellence in Philosophy as the most outstanding Philosophy major at LVC.

The final award was given to Anna Quinn. Anna was the recipient of the David E. Long/ Abram M. Long Memorial Ministerial Scholarship Award. This award was established in 1965 by the Reverend Abram M. Long, Class of 1917, in memory of his father, the Reverend David E. Long, Class of 1900. The award is based on merit, and is given annually by the Department of Religion and Philosophy to a student preparing for the ministry and/or a life of service.

2014 Theta Alpha Kappa Inductions

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On Tuesday, April 8th, five students from the Department of Religion and Philosophy at LVC were inducted into Theta Alpha Kappa, the national honor society for Religious Studies and Theology.

In addition, graduating senior Daniel Kimmel was given a monetary prize from the national office of Theta Alpha Kappa in recognition of his scholarship and dedication to excellence in religious studies and theology. Daniel is graduating this year with a double major in English and Religion, and a minor in Classics. He has a perfect 4.0 GPA. For the past two years he has presented his research at the North American Undergraduate Conference in Religion and Philosophy. He was inducted into Theta Alpha Kappa last year as a part of our inaugural class. He is also a member of the English national honors society and Phi Alpha Epsilon. Next year, he will be attending Lehigh University as a Teaching Fellow to begin work on his Master’s Degree in English.

Theta Alpha Kappa is an affiliated society of the American Academy of Religion and is a member of the Association of College Honor Societies.

A brief profile of each of the inductees is listed below. Congratulations to them all.

Alyssa Carter:
Alyssa Carter graduated from LVC with a double major in Philosophy and Psychology. While still a student, she worked as an assistant in LVC’s Counseling Services for three years. The current director of Counseling Services, Stevie Falk, credits Alyssa with being absolutely “instrumental” to her success by providing a bridge between the office’s past activities and its present work. Alyssa assumed the responsibility for regularly publishing the Counseling Services Newsletter “Stepping Stones”. She also organized many of the outreach and educational events. And in addition, she was President of the LVC chapter of Active Minds, a leading national organization that empowers students to speak openly about mental health issues. Alyssa currently works as a Psychiatric Assistant at Philhaven, the Counseling and Mental Health Hospital located in Lebanon, PA.

Miranda Milillo:
Miranda is currently completing her sophomore year at LVC. She is a Religion major and is actively involved in LVC’s service fraternity APO. She was recruited to the Religion department by Professor Sayers after taking his First Year Seminar class in Dystopia and after spending a short study abroad experience in London where she and several of her classmates spent the week investigating the religious diversity of one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities. She is a gifted reader and a natural leader. She participated in this year’s Habitat for Humanity’s national alternative spring break program in Pendletin, W.V. where she along with 21 other LVC students and staff helped families obtain simple, affordable housing.

Alyssa Nissley:
Alyssa is completing her junior year at LVC. She is an active and engaged student leader on campus who excels in the classroom and who has also been recognized for her off-campus community service. She has been awarded an Arnold Grant for Experiential Education for a Collaborative Research Project with Dr. Matt Sayers on “Developing a Theory of Religious Change”. She spent last spring semester studying abroad in Argentina. She is currently enrolled in the yearlong Race and Religion Undergraduate Research Symposium in which she has conducted independent research by doing a womanist theological analysis of Alice Walker’s novel, The Color Purple, which she has presented at the North American Undergraduate Conference in Religion and Philosophy and at the national undergraduate conference on “Democracy Realized” at Allegheny College. She works a plethora of jobs at LVC, including her work as the student assistant in the Religion and Philosophy office suite where she provides invaluable assistance to Becky Corum.

Rebecca Sausser:
Becky is completed her sophomore year at LVC. She is a double major in History and Religion. She is also active in the LVC service fraternity APO. She is famous for her assortment of hats. And for her constant good humor. She is a trained clown and loves to do balloon animals for friends and children. She has a twin brother, who looks nothing like her. She plays the ukulele. As testament to her outstanding qualities as a student, she was one of the brave few to tackle Sanskrit as a freshman. She was also one of the brave few not just to take the Religion and Race symposium this fall, but to allow some of these difficult texts to work like mirrors on her own experience.

Elizabeth Zeiner:
Liz is completing her junior year as a double major in Religion and Sociology. She has studied abroad at the Umbra Institute in Perugia, Italy. Like Miranda, she also participated in this year’s Habitat for Humanity’s national alternative spring break program in Pendletin, W.V. She loves the color green. She is a remarkable student who has willed herself to success, a true testament to earnest, hard-work. After graduating, she is interested in pursuing either a job with the FBI or to continue her studies at the graduate level.

A photo album from the induction ceremony are available at the departmental Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.758822440808303.1073741844.471241416233075&type=1.

Undergraduate Research

2014 Undergraduate Research Symposium on Race and Religion

2014 Undergraduate Research Symposium on Race and Religion

IMG_5466 Respondent Professor J. Kameron Carter (Duke University)

NAUCRP Award

NAUCRP Awards for Most Outstanding Papers of the Conference

March was an extremely full month for Religion and Philosophy students at LVC. It began with 8 students presenting at the 7th Annual North American Undergraduate Conference on Religion and Philosophy. The conference was hosted by LVC, with Monica Coleman as the guest speaker. The conference included undergraduate participants from 18 different colleges and universities from 14 different states. Two LVC students–Dylan Matusek and Megan English–won prizes for most outstanding paper of the conference. You may find out more information about the conference at https://www.facebook.com/events/215628635275820/.

The following weekend, six students from the Symposium course on Religion and Race traveled together with Professors Vahanian and Sayers to Allegheny College for an undergraduate conference on the theme of “Democracy Realized.”

Fresh on the heels of that trip, Professor J. Kameron Carter from the Divinity School at Duke University visited campus for the culminating public events of the Religion and Race Symposium. On Monday evening, Carter gave a public lecture on “Postracial Blues” in which he provided an analysis of the contemporary films Avatar and District 9 from the perspective of critical race theory and theology. On Tuesday, Carter acted as the official respondent to the original research papers delivered by LVC students. Photos of this event are available at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.755947694429111.1073741843.471241416233075&type=1

George Yancy to Visit LVC

George Yancy

We are pleased to be hosting the philosopher George Yancy on Tuesday, February 25th. In addition to his public lecture at 4pm on “Exploring Race in Predominantly White Classrooms, ” he will be visiting with students from the Religion and Race Symposium course for a private conversation about his books “Christology and Whiteness” and “Look, A White!”

Yancy is a Professor of Philosophy at Duquesne University and a has been a guest columnist for the Opinion Page of the New York Times.

The Rebellious No

Vahanian Book Cover
We are pleased to announce the publication of Professor Noelle Vahanian’s new book, “The Rebellious No: Variations on a Secular Theology of Language.” The book is published in the prestigious “Perspectives in Continental Philosophy” series with Fordham University Press.

One reviewer of the book has written, “The Rebellious No is an important and original contribution to contemporary theological thinking. Vahanian’s secular theology of language is intense, meditative and brilliant, and culminates in a profound vision of how rebellion and love are inseparable from each other.” And the philosopher Catherine Malabou has compared Vahanian’s work to that of Heidegger and Levinas, two of the most important and influential philosophers of the twentieth century.

The department will be having a book release party for Professor Vahanian on Wednesday, March 12th.

In the meantime, you can order a copy of your own at http://www.amazon.com/The-Rebellious-Variations-Perspectives-Continental/dp/0823256952/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392736995&sr=8-1&keywords=noelle+vahanian.

Gianni Vattimo on Post-Modernism, “Weak Thought,” and being a Catholic Anarchist Communist

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Friend of the department Gianni Vattimo, Italian philosopher and European Parliament member, recently gave this interview on the Australian program “The Philosopher’s Zone.”  Vattimo’s description of his own philosophy and its political relevance is as clear as it is profound and challenging.

Listen to the interview here: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/philosopherszone/gianni-vattimo-v2/5137466