Philosophy & Religious Studies

Dr. PeraboDr. Betsy Perabo

Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Phone: (309) 298-1309
Office: Morgan 415-B

Education: B.A., Northwestern University; M.Div., Harvard Divinity School; Ph.D., Yale University

Office Hours: 

Fall 2015 Classes:

  • Religion 111:  Introduction to Western Religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam)
  • Religion 101:  Exploring Religion (Religion in Practice:  Spirituality, Art, Music, and Sports)
  • Religion 301:  Religion in America:  ONLINE

Other classes (taught on a rotating basis):

  • Religious Ethics
  • Religion and War (currently scheduled for Spring 16)
  • Women and Religion
  • The Christians

Research and writing

My research focuses on Christian perspectives on war, and I am interested in a broad spectrum of questions related to the ways Christianity and other religious traditions help people live through and interpret the experiences they and others have during wartime.  Some questions I consider include:

  • How do religious believers make decisions about whether to join the military, or to support military action?  What religious principles, practices, and institutions influence these decisions?
  • In what ways do religious beliefs and practices affect the behavior and the experiences of individuals during wartime, and after war?
  • Why do adherents of the same faith reach such radically different conclusions about war?  For example, why do some Christians believe they have the right or responsibility to fight wars in the service of a just cause, while others believe war is always wrong?

In 2014-15, I am on a sabbatical leave to do research on a book, which is under contract with Bloomsbury Press.  The book focuses on Russian Orthodox Christian perspectives of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. Russia was by most definitions a "Christian nation" at that time, and Japan was in some ways a "Buddhist nation," so this conflict raises interesting questions about the relationship between religion and war. 

The Russian Christians I study include an ordinary soldier who is taken prisoner by the Japanese; a field chaplain who spends the war ministering to Russian soldiers on the front lines; a military psychologist and officer who commands Russian troops; church leaders in Russia who are strong supporters of the war; the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, who is a pacifist and opponent of the war; and Nikolai of Japan, a 67-year-old priest who founded the Russian Orthodox Mission in Japan in the 1860s, spent most of his life in that country, and stays there during the war at his congregation's request.  Each of these people brings a distinctive Christian perspective to the analysis of how religion and war are (or should be) related.