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Marquis Scholar Sarah Bassin ’04 (Overland Park, Kan.) is gaining insight into Roman Catholic liberation theology and ”Just War” theory in two different intensive research projects this semester.

Bassin, a history and religion major, is conducting EXCEL Scholars research on Just War theory with Stephen E. Lammers, Helen H.P. Manson Professor of Religion. In EXCEL, students collaborate closely with faculty on research while earning a stipend.

Lammers is coeditor of On Moral Medicine, an award-winning book in medical ethics, and Theological Voices in Medical Ethics. He is a past recipient of Carl R. and Ingeborg Beidleman Research Award, which recognizes excellence in applied research or scholarship. Lammers also is ethics consultant for Lehigh Valley Hospital Center, working with residents and medical students, and a member of the hospital’s Institutional Review Board, Institutional Animal Use and Care Committee, and Ethics Committee.

Bassin is exploring Jewish traditions that are similar to the Just War theory. Her work has taken her to the Talmud, the authoritative body of Jewish law and tradition. She is recording her observations and questions in the form of a letter to the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

Bassin says that Lammers, who suggested she write the letter, pushes her to accomplish more than she thinks she can.

“He doesn’t let me off the hook,” she says. “He pokes at the things I try to avoid. It’s difficult, but it’s worth it.”

Lammers says Bassin will spend the second half of the semester assisting him in his continuing research on Catholic Just War theory and its relationship with the United States’ pending attack on Iraq.

Bassin is also undertaking an independent study on liberation theology led by Richard E. Sharpless, professor of history.

“I am most interested in the aspect of religion that compels people to examine or act upon social concerns,” she explains. “My own tradition in Reform Judaism has a strong emphasis on tzedakah, ‘social justice’, and tikun olam, ‘healing the world’. Liberation theology is like the Catholic counterpart to those Jewish concepts.”

“Professor Sharpless and I have also formed a valuable student/teacher relationship,” she adds. “He takes interest in what intrigues me and has designed the course to make me examine why I believe what I do.”

Bassin is exploring a variety of sources in her study, including Liberation Theology by theologian Gustavo Gutierrez and Stupid White Men by political satirist Michael Moore. “They don’t seem related, but they all fit together,” she says.

Sharpless invited Bassin to conduct the independent study after her exemplary performance in his course on Latin American history. He says that Bassin’s work has been exceptional thus far.

“She’s a first-rate student,” says Sharpless. “She’s very self-motivated. You can tell her to read something and she’ll do it and probably more. I’m very much impressed with her as a student.”

“My experience has shown that professors here are very receptive to students who display interest above the norm,” Bassin adds.

Bassin spent last summer working as a social action intern at Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays in Washington, D.C., and taking a class on modern Jewish literature through the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. She hopes to work with a service corps for a year after graduation before beginning her rabbinical studies.

President of Hillel Society, Bassin teaches fifth-grade students at an Easton-area synagogue and is co-chair of QuEST, Questioning Established Sexual Taboos. She was the inaugural recipient of Lafayette’s Ludwig and Beatrice B. Muhlfelder Scholarship, presented to a student whose academic program includes a focus on Holocaust studies.

Categorized in: Academic News