Date Thesis Awarded

4-2014

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

Religious Studies

Advisor

Marc Lee Raphael

Committee Member

Anne Blazer

Committee Member

Inga Carboni

Abstract

Are people inherently good? This philosophical question has been contested in courtrooms and classrooms throughout the centuries as people try to determine true human nature. Worldly conflicts which result in homelessness, starvation, and wars challenge the goodness of humanity. Amid all of these difficult life situations, individuals, non-profits and religious organizations try to make a positive difference by changing the human condition for the better. These actions, commonly referred to as social justice, exist worldwide but are found most predominantly within religious communities.

My honors thesis will be looking specifically at Jewish and Catholic religious institutions and their rooted beliefs concerning social justice. My main research question is: what theological underpinnings reside within religious communities that inspire its members to do acts of social justice, and then sustain this drive for change? Within this question, I hope to determine the core foundations of social justice programs which develop from these religious institutions: for what purpose do they form and who are they striving to serve? Ideally these answers will lead to an unraveling of social justice motivators and aid in promoting and increasing community service work around the world.

Service has always been more than just an addition to my resume; it is a fulfilling experience that permeates my life and future goals. I plan to use my research to contribute to the growing ecumenical field within religious studies. By discovering main motivating factors of service work and social responsibilities within Jewish and Catholic institutions, I hope to better understand and therefore explain the need for more prominent social justice action in our world.