Kara Lassen Oliver graduated from Butler University in
1996 with a degree in Religious Studies.
Questions have always been so much more interesting to me than
And I was fortunate from a young age to have
parents, teachers and pastors who encouraged those questions and
wrestled with me to find answers.
That didn't change when I went to Butler University. I started
as a math major, determined to have a practical degree that might
actually provide me employment. But as I continued through calculus
class after calculus class, I discovered that at a certain point
equations cease to have answers. Wrestling with numbers wasn't
nearly as appealing as delving into faith, religion and their
intersection with people. I changed to a Religious Studies
The Religious Studies and Philosophy department drew students
and professors from a variety of traditions and religious
backgrounds into an intimate circle. I took Intro to the Bible with
a young wicken woman. I looked at art with my Buddhist professor. I
discussed morality with the atheist in my class. And I considered
divinity schools with a fellow United Methodist.
I found a mentor with a gift for leading a stimulating
discussion on topics of Bible, the apostle Paul, feminism and
atheism without ever revealing his own opinions, but helping each
student to clarify his or her own.
The questions and the study and the dialogue and the reading
allowed me to see - and to respect - a much broader world than I
had ever considered. It was this larger vision, love of questions,
respect for the intellect and perspective of others that prepared
me for life and ministry beyond Butler.
I have been
privileged to serve in youth ministry at a national level within
The United Methodist Church and serve on local church staff as
youth pastor. The ability to hear, embrace and wrestle with their
questions was a gift that my major prepared me for.
And most recently, my family and I served as United Methodist
Volunteers in Mission in Malawi, Africa. When we couldn't find the
abundant life in our American dream, we followed God's call to
serve alongside church pastors and lay people in Malawi. I was
grateful for academic study of the Quran and Muslim faith and
tradition that allowed me to interact with respect and
understanding in an interfaith setting. And to dispel myths and
prejudice within our local churches.
I was grateful for the model of professors and students who
asked questions first and formed opinions second. And I was blessed
that some of those same professors reached out to us with interest
and followed our journey with delight.
The Religious Studies Department at Butler provides a rigorous
and in depth study of a variety of religions and faith traditions.
It challenges students intellectually. But more importantly, it
develops the ability to hear, appreciate, challenge and discuss the
issues at the heart of so many of our personal and corporate
conflicts. A religious studies major will lead students into the
beautiful world of questions and wonderings. And it may propel them
into their own wanderings all over the globe to develop friendships
and relationships that they had never considered.