Religion & Philosophy Department

Lebanon Valley College

SKYPE Interview with Professor J. Kameron Carter


The students in this year’s Symposium on Race and Religion had the occasion to speak with scholar J. Kameron Carter (Duke University, Divinity School) about his book “Race: A Theological Account” and their various research projects. The full SKYPE session is available on YouTube at

Here is a lineup of students with a draft of their questions:

1) Marquis Bey: Because he is planning his research paper on the viability of a “Br’er Jesus”, he asked the question of how African American folklore works with African American religion? How does the folklore inform the theology? How might folklore work as a theological strategy (of resistance)?

2) Daniel Kimmel: Because he is currently at work on his senior seminar thesis that is examining the nature of religious language as a truly self-reflexive language, he asks Carter about his specific claim in the opening of his book about the way by which Christ “liberates language.” Specifically, he asked about what it was within the structure of ordinary language that lent itself towards domination, and how Christ’s recapitulation of language might “liberate” language?

3) Cristabelle Braden: Her question was interested at getting at whether an authentic biblical Christianity could be an antidote to modern racism–specifically, whether holding to the teachings of the disciples of the 1st century could be an answer to the race problem in Christian theology?

4) Megan English: Beginning with her reading of Martin Luther King, Jr., she has been troubled by the idea of redemptive suffering. She posed the possibility of distinguishing between “redemptive suffering” and “redeeming suffering.”

5) Miranda Milillo: Picking up on W. E. B. Du Bois’ notion of “double-consciousness,” she asked with that notion was still operative for African Americans today.

6) Becky Sausser: Invoking King’s famous quip that Sunday morning remains the most segregated hour in American public life, she asked whether this separation between the traditionally white and black churches in the United States is a productive separation.

7) Ashley Ferrari: She is pursuing a research project on Hispanic Liberation Theology. With the specificity of American Hispanics and African Americans in mind, she asked whether, or how, Christianity, or religion in general, could serve as a unifying force for a diversity of people.

8) Anna Quin: She asked about the use and misuse of the Bible in discussions of equality and justice.

9) Susanna Chehata: Drawing on James Cone’s book, “The Cross and the Lynching Tree,” she asked whether it was possible to truly understand Christianity without a real experience of social suffering.

10) Alyssa Nissley: She is interested in writing a paper on Black women in Christianity. Specifically, she was interested in the Black Womanist theologian Delores Williams’ critique of Cone, and the argument regarding the specific nature of suffering experienced by both men and women.

In the News…

The Department of Religion and Philosophy has been the subject of several profiles and web stories over the past several months. They include the following:

“Ryan Derfler ’04 Finds Fulfillment Through Faith and Nonprofit Work”
What is most significant for us about this profile of one of our recent graduates is how Ryan spoke about the way his study of philosophy and the way he learned to ask “the big questions” prepared him not simply for his first job, but for an entire series of career opportunities. As a department, we regard him as a model for what can be done by a creative combination of majors.

“College to Host Sustained Interfaith Dialogue on Wealth Distribution and Economic Privilege”
This story alerts the community to the department’s partnership with the LVC Office of Spiritual Life to provide an ongoing interfaith forum to explore current events and controversial issues. These sustained interfaith dialogues are an integral part of our recently launched “Interfaith Certification Program” (see

“Cristabelle Braden ’15 Became Prolific Songwriter After Serious Brain Injury”
This story profiles a current student. Her story is an inspiring one. She is already an exceptional student with enormous promise.

“When Faculty Study Abroad”
This story describes recent travels by yours truly–specifically the way that my own research and network of professional contacts informs and enhances classroom education. All of the faculty in our department share this teacher-scholar ideal.

North American Undergraduate Conference in Religion & Philosophy

naucrp (1)

The Department of Religion and Philosophy at Lebanon Valley College is pleased to be hosting the 7th Annual North American Undergraduate Conference in Religion & Philosophy this spring.

Activist, scholar and minister Monica Coleman from Claremont School of Theology will be the keynote speaker. Find information about her at

The conference is being jointly planned by a LVC faculty member and student, Dr. Matt Sayers and Daniel Kimmel.

Details for the conference can be found at

2013 Fall Report


We have had an active couple of months in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at LVC. The semester kicked off with our first BRAINSTORMS meeting (see photos here: in which we celebrated the publication of the book of essays from our undergraduates on the work of Catherine Malabou (check it out at The essays were the product of last year’s team-taught undergraduate research symposium. The symposium course and the book publication were such a success that we have plans to make them both annual events. In other words, we want LVC to be the destination for high achieving students who want to take on the challenge of conducting undergraduate research and whose quality of work will be ready for the scrutiny of public presentations and publication.

It is with that in mind that we have commenced our second annual team-taught undergraduate research symposium course. The topic for this year is “Race and Religion.” Students will be working in a collaborative learning environment with three LVC professors from the department as well as with Professor J. Kameron Carter from Duke Theological School, who is serving as the symposium course’s external scholar. Students are enrolled in the class by the permission of an instructor and commit to an entire year of study and conversation. During the spring semester, students will present their research in two public forums. The first will be at the North American Undergraduate Conference on Religion and Philosophy in which LVC students will be competing with students from across the country for awards in outstanding scholarship and presentation. The second will be at the public symposium where Professor Carter will be serving as the official respondent, providing commentary and critique on each student’s work. Based on the feedback the students will be receiving from these various events, as well as the writing conferences held with individual professors over the course of the spring semester, students will revise and finalize their papers to be ready for publication in a collected book of essays in summer 2014.

In addition to this intensive learning experience, we also have four students completing the senior seminar course this semester. This course as designed as the capstone course for the Religion and Philosophy major. It requires students (1) to compile a portfolio of their best representative work over their time as an undergraduate, (2) to write an intellectual autobiography, and (3) to complete a senior research thesis on a topic of each student’s own choosing. This is the class where students synthesize and bring coherence to their various courses and demonstrate their capacities at critical thinking and in oral and written communication. It provides interested students with a writing sample that can be included as a part of their graduate school applications. And it is a means by which students can convey to potential employers their capacities for completing tasks independently, problem solving, intellectual discernment, effective communication, and self-confidence. The course is required of all majors. It gives students the opportunity to work one-on-one with an individual faculty member. And it is yet something else that helps to distinguish our department’s philosophy of teaching and learning in a liberal arts environment from many of the other good programs in Religion and Philosophy from our region.

Finally, we are pleased to report on the outstanding work done by one of our graduating seniors. Ashley Ferrari is not only a student leader on campus who is involved in many different extracurricular activities, but she is also a successful triple major in Philosophy, International Studies, and Spanish. She has studied abroad in Spain, and has engaged in a collaborative research project with an LVC faculty member in Mexico. She has just recently completed her application for the Fulbright Scholar Program. As stated on the CIES website, “The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to ‘increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.'” Students are chosen for the Fulbright based on their academic merit and leadership potential. If chosen, the Fulbright Scholar is given a full year’s of funding for the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research on a shared international concern. Ashley’s proposed research project builds on her work from last year’s undergraduate research symposium on Catherine Malabou. She was assisted in preparing the application by faculty in the Religion and Philosophy department and her advisor in International Studies. She is proposing to spend a year at the University of Barcelona under the direction of the philosopher Santiago Zabala. We are extremely hopeful for Ashley’s prospects and proud of the seriousness of purpose she has already shown in readying her application materials.

Research Symposium on Catherine Malabou

Malabou Symposium

Malabou Symposium 2


LVC’s Symposium on a Living Philosopher culminated last week with Catherine Malabou’s extended visit to campus.  Malabou, who lives in Paris and works at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University in London, came to LVC in between trips to Duke University and Villanova University.  During her three days here she conducted study sessions with faculty and students, gave a public lecture entitled “What is a Psychic Event? Psychoanalysis and Neurobiology on Trauma,” and served as the official respondent for the Undergraduate Research Symposium held on her work.

The Research Symposium was the culmination of a yearlong seminar course.  Five LVC students (Dylan Matusek, Ashley Ferrari, Halley Washburn, Devan Glenny and Marquis Bey) presented their original research on Malabou directly to her in an open, public forum.  They were joined by Jordan Skinner from Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, MI.

The students were poised, knowledgeable, and confident, even as they sparred with a contemporary thinker of world significance.  Malabou herself was warm, gracious, and exacting.  She spoke affirmatively of the high level of scholarship the students produced.  And perhaps what she found most impressive was how each of the students developed her work in new and distinctive ways–from explorations of how her philosophy provides a viable form of political resistance and the possibility for real change, and how it contributes to notions of freedom and individuality, to applications of her work in considerations of the phenomenon of bullying and the persistence of racial and gender discrimination.

All told, this was one of the most significant and exciting weeks for our department in recent memory.  The students’ successes from this class–first at the North American Undergraduate Conference in Religion and Philosophy, and second with their direct engagement with Malabou herself–provides ample proof for us that this model of integrating undergraduate research into the humanities is a genuinely high impact learning experience.  We are committed to building on this success and believe that it provides our graduates with an unparalleled education in philosophy and religion.

Sayers at the 2012 PA State Atheist/Humanist Conference

In September of 2012, I was invited to sit on a panel discussing the role of religious people in establishing and maintaining a secular government. The panel was entitled “Secular Government, Bringing Believers into the Fold, and it featured an even balance of atheists and religious people. The videos from the entire conference have recently been posted and can be viewed here. The hour-long panel on Secular Government, featuring me, Matt Sayers, can be seen here.

LVC Students Present at the North American Undergraduate Conference in Religion and Philosophy



On Saturday March 23rd several students from LVC presenting their work at the North American Undergraduate Conference in Religion and Philosophy. Professors Jeff Robbins, Matt Sayers, and Noelle Vahanian (with an appearance by Professor Diane Johnson) accompanied seven LVC students who attended and presented at the 7th annual undergraduate conference held at St. Francis University on March 22-23rd.

Five of the students presented papers they wrote for the Symposium on a Living Philosopher, a full-year seminar on the philosophy of Catherine Malabou. Marquis Bey, Devan Glenny, Ashley Ferrari, Dylan Matusek, and Halley Washburn each presented shorter versions of papers they have written for this class, papers they will present to Dr. Malabou herself later this Spring semester here at LVC. Each related the work of Dr. Malabou to topics that interested them. Bey connected the notion of plasticity to identity formation among African American women, Glenny related themes from class to the issue of bullying. Ferrari engaged Malabou’s critic of capitalism. Matusek challenged Malabou’s conception of the synaptic self. And Washburn tackled the connection between neuroplasticity and change.

Daniel Kimmel and Haisam Hassanein both presented works from different classes. Kimmel engaged the religious theory of Erik Erikson and Hassanein described the situation of Coptic Christians in Egypt. All the papers connected the students’ individual work to the conference theme: “New Frontiers of Reason.”

Two LVC students took prizes for most outstanding papers of the conference:  Dylan Matusek (1st place) and Ashley Ferrari (3rd place).  Presenters included students from Rutgers, SUNY Buffalo, Emmanuel, and Iona College and as far away as Brigham Young University. Dr. Robbins’ pictures from the conference are available on Facebook at this URL. Photos by the conference organizer, Dr. Art Remillard of St. Francis University, are available here.

Plans are in the works for LVC to host the North American Undergraduate Conference in Religion and Philosophy next year.

Itinerary for Malabou Symposium

Malabou Symposium  We have the schedule of events set for the culmination of the yearlong Symposium on the Catherine Malabou.

Professor Malabou will be here at LVC meeting with students and faculty from April 9-11th.

There are three public events.

  1. Malabou’s public lecture on “What is a Psychic Event? Psychoanalysis and Neurology on Trauma.”  This will be held in Chapel 101 on Wednesday, April 10th at 4:30pm.
  2. The Undergraduate Research Symposium on the Work of Malabou:  This features the independent research projects of the eight students who from the yearlong course.  Professor Malabou will serve as the official respondent as each student presents his/her thesis on her work.  This will be held in the Bishop Library Atrium on Thursday, April 11th from 4:00-6:00pm.
  3. The reception in celebration of the students’ work and to meet and honor Professor Malabou will be immediately following the Research Symposium.  It will be held in the Lobby of the Neidig-Garber Science building from 6:30-8:00pm.