The Cresset
A Review of Literature, Fine Arts, and Current Affairs
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Knowledge and Praise:
An Open Letter to Christian Students
at the Journey's Beginning

Petery Kerry Powers


I begin with a simple question for the class of 2018, though it is really a question for all of us: Why higher education? Why are you now in the place where you find yourselves, whether in the great urban universities of New York or Chicago, at my home institution of Messiah College, or perhaps Valparaiso University in Indiana, or in the shadow of mountains at Bennington in Vermont, where my son is attending this fall? Until very recently, a very small percentage of Americans chose to or even had the opportunity to attend a college. Only two or three generations ago, the large majority of Americans went to work after high school...  Read More

The Imponderability of the Past

Thomas Albert Howard


In the late 900s, the Byzantine Emperor Basil (“the Bulgar Slayer”) led an army from Constantinople against the Bulgars who had invaded his territories in Greece. Defeated at first, he raised new armies and kept returning to the fray. The turning point finally came in 1014 when his imperial troops managed to capture fifteen thousand Bulgar warriors. Instead of killing his captives, he decided to blind them, except for one in every one hundred, whom he left with one eye each so that they could lead their comrades back home...  Read More

Reading Wendell Berry at Costco:
How (Not) to be Secular,
By James K.A. Smith

Harold K. Bush

book cover  

In his volume Imagining the Kingdom, part two of a promised trilogy on the experience and phenomenology of worship and formation in contemporary America, James K.A. Smith describes an unsettling experience. One day, he sits in the loud and busy food court of a typical Costco near his home. There, he sits, innocently reading a book in the food court; but upon further reflection, this act of reading turns out to be a deeply unsettling and disturbing moment  Read More

Thinking About Love:
How Love Reveals Where We Are,
Where We Are Going, and Why

Ian Clausen

To think about love is less exciting than to feel it, and perhaps that is why love receives scant critical attention. As often as we invoke it, we seldom stop to think about it, and this leaves us assuming that we agree on what it is. But can love be defined, or should it? There are those who think that love defies all definition. To define it takes the wind out of the sails of love’s passion, and spoils the spontaneity of its dynamically radiant presence. Love, it seems, stands outside the remit of reflective knowledge, transcending our meager attempts to lay hold of its content...  Read More

Also In This Issue
Tom Willadsen

W. H. Auden, Michael Longley,
and Poetry as Citizenship in
Northern Ireland

Richard Rankin Russell


W. H. Auden’s desire, evinced above, to be instructed in “the civil art” to make a locally grounded community—his Just City, where peace and “pent-up feelings” might flourish—suggests how poetry might sonically imagine harmonious order. It might seem strange to begin an essay on the vexed topic of literature’s response to the recent violence of Northern Ireland by invoking the English poet Auden, who later became an American citizen...  Read More

Conflicted Visions:
Troubles Cinema, Political Myths,
and Steve McQueen's Hunger

Charles Andrews


With his customary humility, the Irish poet, playwright, senator, and occultist W. B. Yeats took credit for inventing the hunger strike in 1904 through his verse drama The King’s Threshold. This dramatic work depicts a poet starving himself to regain his privileged access to the court, and Yeats claimed in his notes that “when I wrote this play neither suffragette nor patriot had adopted the hunger strike, nor had the hunger strike been used anywhere, so far as I know, as a political weapon”....  Read More

Northern Ireland's Memories of 1916
and The Trouble with the Past

Tammy M. Proctor


In the post-1998 world of Northern Irish memory, few years loom as large as 1916. For both the Unionist and the Nationalist factions in the North, the year marks a turning point in their creationist myth and a foundational cornerstone in their sectarian historical narratives. For the Unionists, 1916 constituted proof of their blood sacrifice for the Union with Britain, and it provides evidence of their “no surrender” mentality. Unionists only need point to the 36th Ulster Division’s heroic stand at the Somme on July 1, 1916 in which they reached enemy lines before being forced to retreat, sustaining more than five thousand casualties. Read More

Empathy and Horror:
Reflections on a Handshake

David S. Western

It is hard not to admire Alistair Little. In many ways he represents the personification of Northern Ireland’s heroic journey toward peace. Born and raised twenty miles from Belfast during the fiercest decades of the Northern Irish conflict, swept from birth into a swirling sea of anger, despair, and bloodshed, Alistair has lived through a hard-won triumph of personal transformation. He has been the phoenix, utterly destroyed to rise again a better man.   Read More

Also In This Issue
Jennifer Forness

A Modern Festschrift

The year was 1640. Gregor Ritzsch, a poet of Lutheran hymns and owner of the Leipzig Book print shop, decided that it would be apropos to celebrate the bicentennial of the invention of the art of printing. He called upon a number of poets to contribute to the first Festschrift (festival of writing) to commemorate the noteworthy occasion. In similar fashion, it is apropos for a Lutheran University to give thanks for its resident inventors. This Special Edition of The Cresset commemorates two members of Valparaiso University upon their retirement at the end of this 2014 academic year, Mark Schwehn and Dorothy Bass.  Read More

Reflections on Exiles from Eden

Reflections on Practicing Our Faith


A Way to Live

Craig Dykstra

Jump in Where You Are

Stephanie Paulsell

On the Road

Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore

Reflections on Leading Lives That Matter

Also In This Issue
Kaethe Schwehn

Inspiring Faith and Engaging Reality

Mark Ravizza, SJ


For the past eight years, I have taught at the Casa de la Solidaridad in El Salvador and Casa Bayanihan in Manila. The Casa programs are alternative, study-abroad semesters that transform students by immersing them in materially poor communities and then integrating that experience through rigorous academic analysis, spiritual formation, and simple community living. Read More

Civic Virtue Starts at Home

Patricia McGuire


We don’t mind all this diversity. But are they Catholic?”
The Trinity College alumna who challenged me with this question gave voice to what many other alumnae were thinking in the early 1990s as Trinity’s student body underwent a dramatic demographic paradigm shift. Historically hailing mostly from traditional, white, Catholic families in the middle- and upper-middle-class parishes of the East Coast and Midwest, Trinity students in the first seven decades of the college’s life emerged as smart, strong leaders of families, communities, and corporations...  Read More

Purpose, Provender, and Promises

Richard Ray


Church-related colleges today face a difficult challenge: they must address pressures to increase revenue and enrollment in unique and dynamic ways that are true to their intrinsic values. Stated differently, they must find mission-based ideas and practices that will enable them to increase revenue, resources, and enrollment while remaining faithful to their historic missions. My perspective in thinking about these questions and in framing this message is as one who serves as provost of an institution dedicated solely to 3,300 undergraduates, a college ecumenical in character while rooted in the Reformed tradition of our founders and the Reformed Church in America... Read More

A Season for Change

Jennifer L. Miller


It is the time of year when we long for change. As I write this, I look out the window at snow swirling around in mini-tornados, caught in the nooks and crannies of buildings on campus. By the time this piece is published, the weather will have changed. Most of the snow will be melted, and the change to spring will be well underway. The Christian church, too, celebrates perhaps the biggest change of all in this season, the shift from the mourning and repentance of Lent to the joy and exhilaration of Easter... Read More

Also In This Issue
Geoffrey C. Bowden


Dramas of Love and Dirt
Soil and the Salvation of the World

Norman Wirzba


Try to imagine what it would be like to hear your name every time someone uttered the words “soil” or “dirt.” This is what life would have been like for Adam, because his name makes no sense apart from the soil from which he lives. The Hebrew word for soil is adamah. That the first human being was called adam meant that the biblical writer wanted us to understand that human life derives from soil, needs soil, and is utterly dependent upon it for food, energy, building materials, comfort, and for inspiration. Similarly, the fact that soil is called adamah would have had the effect of reminding human beings that soil also depends on us...  Read More

A Conversation with Peter L. Berger
"How My Views Have Changed"

Gregor Thuswaldner


On September 12, 2013, the eminent Austrian-American sociologist Peter Berger visited The Center for Faith and Inquiry at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. The following is a partial transcript of an interview conducted by Gordon College’s Gregor Thuswaldner... Gregor Thuswaldner: When you started out as a sociologist of religion, you had a very different view of secularization than you do today. Can you tell us about the concept, the so-called secularization thesis, and what it’s about, and why you now think it’s wrong?  Read More

A Short History of Infertility and Ducks

Kirsten Eve Beachy


When you are a granola Mennonite couple just getting started on a little homestead, free stuff is gold. So when my father-in-law called us a few days before the 2008 Virginia Mennonite Relief sale and asked, “You want some ducks?” we said, “Of course,” arranged to pick them up at the sale, then hurried to research Muscovy ducks... A few words first for the uninitiated about our relief sale: thousands of Mennonites in the Shenandoah Valley—from bonnet-wearing to Bible-thumping to Global Village to granola to college students—gather for a weekend of eating homemade donuts, potato chips, and Brunswick stew...  Read More

The Political Writings of Martin Luther

Geoffrey C. Bowden


In an era of scholarly (over) ­specialization, there exists a tendency to dissect the thinking of a particular figure of historical note into discreet parts according to our modern disciplinary typology. This tendency sets the framework for our study of the “great books” and writers in the scholarly canon. We allow our disciplines to impose questions on texts that they were not designed to answer. We “extract” theories from a larger theoretical corpus to use for our own purposes, unwittingly damaging those theories in the process of “extraction” from the supporting context. The historiography of Martin Luther’s writings serves as a case in point.  Read More

Also In This Issue
Katherine Kennedy Steiner
Frank J. Colucci
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