Dr. Elisabeth Vasko

Elisabeth Vasko

Associate Professor
McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Department of Theology

Fisher Hall 621
Phone: 412.396.2078


Ph.D., Theology, Loyola University Chicago, 2009
M.A., Pastoral Ministry, Boston College, 2001
B.S., Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1999

"Girls can do anything because they are smart and strong!" In world marked by radical social inequity, this statement can become a question when white supremacy, poverty, neocolonialism, and heteropatriarchy are allowed to suppress the agency of women and girls. Empowering young women and men to work toward social justice and to think critically and constructively about the intersection of Christian tradition and gender-based violence (in all its forms) are key foci of my teaching and research.

I began to explore these questions in Beyond Apathy: A Theology for Bystanders (Fortress Press, 2015), which takes a closer look at the role of systemic ignorance in perpetuating structural injustices in the context of bullying, white racism, and sexual violence.

My current project, True Crime and the Justice of God, further probes the significance of true crime digital media in shaping Christian moral imagination and agency. This book, which is co-authored with forensic scientist, Lyndsie Ferrara, PhD, uses the tools in forensic science and moral analysis, gives particular attention in which media patterns of systemic ignorance and social inequity sustain anti-blackness and violence against women in daily life.

My work also appears in the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Feminist Theology, Teaching Theology & Religion, Concilium, the Journal of Religion, and the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics. I also present regularly at national and international conferences in my field.

However, what I value most is creating spaces for dialogue, community, and voice among young women and men. I seek to do this by regularly incorporating community-engaged pedagogies in my undergraduate and graduate classes.


Courses Taught:
• Undergraduate: Theological Views of the Person; Women and Christianity; Christianity and Violence; Theology, Media, and Pop Culture; Theological Ethics, Honors Theology, Christianity, Embodiment, and Violence; True Crime and the Justice of God; Racial Geographies and Social Ethics.

• Graduate: Dr. Vasko teaches Ph.D. and M.A seminars in her fields of specialization
• Academic Advising: I am happy to work with students interested in participating in Duquesne's URSS or GSRS. For more information contact her directly.


Dr. Vasko has received a Rangos Award (2020) for her work with Dr. Lyndsie Ferrara on True Crime and the Justice of God, which re-imagines undergraduate learning through an interdisciplinary paradigm that brings together theology and forensic science.

In 2014 Dr. Vasko was a recipient of a university Creative Teaching Award for her work with Dr. Anna Scheid on anti-racist pedagogy in theology classrooms.


Beyond Apathy: A Theology for Bystanders (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2015).

Theological conversations about violence have typically framed the discussion in terms of victim and perpetrator. Such work, while important, only addresses part of the problem. Comprehensive theological and pastoral responses to violence must also address the role of collective passivity in the face of human denigration. Given the pervasiveness of inaction-whether in the form of denial, willful ignorance, or silent complicity-a theological reflection on violence that holds bystanders accountable, especially those who occupy social sites of privilege, is long overdue. I

Elisabeth T. Vasko utilizes resources within the Christian tradition to examine the theological significance of bystander participation in patterns of violence and violation within contemporary Western culture, giving particular attention to the social issues of bullying, white racism, and sexual violence. In doing so, she constructs a theology of redeeming grace for bystanders to violence that foregrounds the significance of social action in bringing about God's kingdom.

 Recent Articles (Selected):
Vasko, Elisabeth T.
"Pink Blankets, Sexual Violence, Moral Paralysis, and Christian Vocation," in Theologies of Failure, eds. Roberto Sirvent and Duncan Reyburn (New York: Cascade, 2019),

Vasko, Elisabeth T. "Bad Mothers, Mad Mothers: Resisting the Theo-Logic of Stigma and Embracing Grace as Dis-Ease," Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 37.1 (2017): 141-159.

Vasko, Elisabeth T. "Civic Learning and Teaching as a Resource for Sexual Justice: An Undergraduate Religious Studies Course Module," Teaching Theology and Religion 20.2 (2017): 162-170. (Also see response by Donna Frietas in the same volume)

Scheid, Anna Floerke and Elisabeth T. Vasko. "Teaching Race: Pedagogical Challenges in Predominantly White Undergraduate Theology Classrooms." Teaching Theology & Religion 17, no. 1 (2014): 27-45. (Also see essay by Karen Teel and our response to her in the same volume.)

Vasko, Elisabeth T. "The Difference Gender Makes: Nuptiality, Analogy, and the Limits of Appropriating Hans Urs von Balthasar's Theology in the Context of Sexual Violence." The Journal of Religion 94 (2014): 504-528.