The Cresset
A Review of Literature, Fine Arts, and Current Affairs
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Student Success in Church-Related Higher Education

Bobby Fong


Higher education is under fire today for not adequately preparing sufficient numbers of graduates for careers in an increasingly competitive world marketplace. The Department of Education is hard at work on a presidential scorecard for colleges and universities that would include a metric for how much an institution’s graduates earn one year after commencement. Success in these instances seems defined by whether a graduate can get a job and how much she can get paid for doing it. But such an attenuated definition of student success is shortsighted...  Read More

Mission as Ground, Path, and Horizon for
Post-Baccalaureate Student Success

Patricia O'Connell Killen


How can the missions of church-related universities and colleges help graduates of these schools live meaningful lives in their post-baccalaureate years? A mission should serve both as the source of a theologically rich and practically relevant understanding of post-baccalaureate success, and also as the organizing principle for, and source of institutional practices that, cumulatively, awaken and cultivate in students more robust capacities for that success... Read More

Under the Rose

Kenneth Steinbach

Under the Rose  

These photographs are installation shots of the work Under the Rose at Circa Gallery in Minneapolis, exhibited in September 2013. The principal image in the work is a full scale MQ-1 Predator drone cut into cotton muslin fabric with a C02 laser. There are more than 10,000 patterns individually cut into the fabric, leaving a lace-like web of cloth in which each individual pattern is outlined with a blackened seared edge. It is a full size silhouette, about twenty-seven feet long with a sixty-six foot wingspan... Read More

Also In This Issue


A Packing List for Jerusalem

Lisa Deam


A few months ago, I met a real live pilgrim. He has walked over 2,700 miles in the past two years and helps other pilgrims walk too. He has a particular fondness for the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of Saint James. The Camino is a network of routes stretching across Europe and leading to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, said to house the remains of Saint James the Greater. Pilgrims have walked the Camino since the medieval era, and the route is experiencing a revival now. My friend and I discussed the Camino’s rich history, and I thought we were finished. But then this pilgrim turned to me and asked, “So when are you going to walk the Camino?”...  Read More

Can Beauty Save the World?

Peter Kanelos

"I believe the world will be saved by beauty.” So claims Prince Lev Nikolyaevich Myshkin, the protagonist of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s great novel, The Idiot. Dostoevsky is my lodestar. His works penetrate the carapace of humanity, slice open the human condition, laying bear our symmetries and incongruities, unlike any other writer I have yet to encounter. Needless to say, I take what he writes very seriously.
When Dostoevsky speaks of “beauty,” it is not as an aesthete; beauty is not for him something precious, something affected. Dostoevsky’s novels, which feature murderers, adulterers, madmen, the poor, the afflicted, and the unredeemed, in a blighted world, wracked with pain, imbrued with sorrow, and nearly devoid of light, teach us that consciousness itself emerges from suffering.  Read More

Family Berserk: A Lenten Confession

Jennifer Ochstein

I was twenty-four when I learned I had the capacity for murder. What stopped me from bludgeoning my then husband to death with a bat-length two-by-four in a fit of rage was an image of cop cars surrounding our house at the midnight hour and the glare of blinding spotlights and flashing red and blue emergency lights, like the glow of an apocalyptic bomb blast streaming through the darkened windows. The image of the lights coaxed me from my fury and into the reality of the scene before me: my near-naked husband lying in our bed with a stranger. Unable to process this odd picture of him, my mind conjured new images to replace the immediate scene.  Read More

Also In This Issue


Campus Conversations about Sexuality and the Church

Martha Greene Eads


As the percentage of US jurisdictions that legally recognize same-sex relationships passes the halfway mark, many Christian congregations and ministries are launching or renewing conversations about whether and how to include partnered gays and lesbians (Capeheart, 2014). Administrators at church-related colleges and universities attend closely to such conversations. Among the signers of the June 25, 2014, letter appealing to President Obama for religious exemptions to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) were the president emeritus and interim president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) and key administrators at many church-related institutions...  Read More

Distinguish, Not Divorce:
One Christian Exegete's Take on His Task

George C. Heider


The most famous as well as the most influential professorial lecture in the history of biblical studies was delivered 227 years ago, on March 30, 1787, by Johann Philipp Gabler as his inaugural address for a chair of theology at the University of Altdorf in Germany. He spoke in academic Latin, as befit the times and occasion, under the title “De justo discrimine theologiae biblicae et dogmaticae regundisque recte utriusque finibus,” that is, “An Oration on the Proper Distinction between Biblical and Dogmatic Theology and the Specific Objectives of Each.”  Read More

Playing House

Gary Fincke

tent caterpillars


Forty-four years ago, in late June, I drove to New Jersey to be the best man in my former college roommate’s wedding. On the news, as I drove across the state, a commentator declared that summer the worst ever for tent caterpillars. Gypsy moths, he said, but nobody I heard talking at the gas station where I stopped cared about the parents. It was their offspring that repulsed them and threatened their forests. And certainly in Highland Lakes, where the wedding was going to take place, the trees were feeling the relentless advance of impersonal feeding. The swelling tents were everywhere. They looked like they were constructed of mosquito netting for worms, and close up, they forced the standard revulsion for places too heavily populated.  Read More

Reconsidering the Work/Life Balance—For Kids

Agnes R. Howard

The North Shore area above Boston, Massachusetts, is a fine place to survey the transition from industrial to post-industrial economy. Bypassed by the high-tech boom that prospered the corridor west of the city, Lawrence and Lowell and other factory centers house old stalwarts of American industrialization, the textile mills. Before railroads and steel mills, textile production was American industry. Beyond their worth as monuments of economic history, the mills encourage lessons on immigration, urban growth, and child labor.  Read More

Also In This Issue
Nathaniel Lee Hansen
Chris Matthis

Knowledge and Praise:
An Open Letter to Christian Students
at the Journey's Beginning

Peter 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
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