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The Cresset
A Review of Literature, Fine Arts, and Current Affairs
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Christianity Is a Spirituality

Thomas Cathcart

Before there were Christian “beliefs,” there was Christian spirituality. Before the council of bishops at Nicea decided that Jesus Christ is the second person of the Trinity, there was Christian spirituality. Before the Council of Chalcedon decided that Jesus Christ has two natures, divine and human, there was Christian spirituality. Indeed, before the title “Son of God” was ascribed to Jesus of Nazareth, there was Christian spirituality. On that first Easter, the extraordinary experiences of Jesus’s followers were spiritual experiences. Apart from how any of them chose to put it into words, the experience itself was a spiritual “shaking of the foundations,” not an empirical observation or a metaphysical theory...  Read More

The 1998 North-Central Iowa
Spring Break Blizzard Tour

Nathaniel Lee Hansen

One way to describe the tour is like this: almost everything went wrong, almost nothing went right. If we had been seeking a sign from the Lord as to whether this Christian rock band was, in fact, His calling on our lives, we would have observed that the events of these three days created an eight-foot snow bank that featured an ALL CAPS, bold-faced, underlined, italicized, red NO spray painted against the white pile. But we weren’t looking for any kind of sign, at least I wasn’t. The offer of the tour was the sign. While other college students in Minnesota and across the country plotted balmy debauchery and revelry, the four of us in Incarnate Son (Mike, Matt, Jen, and me) were going on tour. For the Lord! We weren’t traveling just anywhere to win the lost; we were booked to play two shows in North-Central Iowa towns of 4,000 and 2,000 people, respectively. What better spring-break destination than these sub-tropical hot spots in mid-March?... Read More

A Seed of Life: The Legacy of Hugo Curran

Joel Kurz


I reveled in his presence as a child. His lips, surrounded by amber-stained silver hairs, often parted with the undulating rhythms of his rhymes. His were inviting words, replete with imaged echoes. To look into his eyes was to see a mystic’s intensity and restraint, to see that he was a man both quiet and ecstatic, one mindful of his vision and ever bearing witness. I knew him simply as Uncle Hugo, even though he was more of a grandfather and bore no blood relation. Born to an accomplished forester and his wife in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in September of 1913, he was named Hugh McCollum Curran, Jr. When he was fifteen, his father took a position with the Philippine Bureau of Forestry and moved the family to the island of Luzon.  Read More

A Short History of Hair

Gary Fincke

Near the end of May 1965, with just a week of final exams left in my sophomore year of college, I spent a Saturday afternoon bleaching my hair. I had help—my roommate and another fraternity brother who claimed he knew just how much hydrogen peroxide would make us blond. After a few beers, I believed him. My brown hair had grown past my collar, a length that drew suspicion even on campus. My roommate’s light-brown hair was clipped short; the other guy still slicked his black hair back like Elvis. The three of us soaked our hair and, satisfied that we were about to be transformed, we went outside to lie in the sun, drink beer, and wait for blondness to arrive. We checked every half hour, looking in the bathroom’s mirrors...  Read More

Also In This Issue
Peter Kerry Powers
Josh Langhoff

Not Just Whistling "Dixie":
The Civil War’s Legacy in Ron Rash’s
The World Made Straight

Martha Greene Eads


Appalachian poet and fiction-writer Ron Rash is emerging as an international literary superstar. Irish novelist Edna O’Brien’s back-cover endorsement of his 2014 short story collection Nothing Gold Can Stay declares, “Like his great predecessors, Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and especially Eudora Welty, Ron Rash’s stories are rooted in the American South and from that place and those people, he writes marvelously rich and compelling vignettes of life as he has seen and imagined it.” In her assessment of Burning Bright (2010), an earlier volume of Rash short stories, Irish Times reviewer Eileen Battersby proclaims, “Magnificent is suddenly too small a word.”...  Read More

Still a Work in Progress:
Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman

Fredrick Barton


The late Civil Rights activist and author Will D. Campbell, the only white man to participate in Martin Luther King Jr.’s founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), liked to tell about how white people, particularly prosperous white people, reacted to his message of racial equality and inclusiveness. In the late 1940s, when he was at Yale Divinity School, but still interacting with the people in his home region of rural Mississippi, and in the early 1950s, when he pastored a Baptist church in small-town Taylor, Louisiana, Campbell’s white associates and parishioners found his attitudes about race “endearing” and “charming.” They found it “cute” that Campbell cared so much about “darkies.” By the mid-1950s and throughout the 1960s, however...  Read More

Stories for a Post-Christian Age:
Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens

David K. Weber

book cover  

“What is man?” to ask an old question in an old way. Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is a new answer to the old question. The first thing to say about this book is that it is not as boring as the title suggests. The book began as a university course that promised students an explanation of everything, “from the Stone Age to the age of capitalism and genetic engineering” (Harari, “Syllabus...”). Given the large swath of history and ideas it covers, the book is necessarily a catalogue of very interesting oversimplifications. Its aim is to help us envision a new kind of wisdom because, “The very future of life on Earth depends on the ideas and behavior of our species” (“Syllabus...”)...
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For Such a Time as This

Lorraine S. Brugh

In ways writ both small and large, the landscape of North American worship renewal has just passed an important milestone. The year 2013 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, whose reforms opened the way to renovations and innovations in Roman Catholic worship. Primary among those reforms was the translation of the mass into the languages of the people who worshiped...  Read More

Also In This Issue


Surviving Ferguson
Hope in the Midst of Everyday Horrors

Harold K. Bush


W.E.B. Du Bois was more than fed up with the common phenomenon in America that had become known as lynching. He didn’t just detest the practice; he honestly wondered if it represented an evil that might destroy the nation itself. For decades, scores of young men had been subjected to mob violence, most often black victims of white mobs. But it was one particular case that brought Du Bois’s imagination to a full boil: the lynching of Jesse Washington in Waco, Texas in May of that year. It was a gory affair, attended by thousands of curious Texans, many of them with their families....  Read More

Pigs Is Equal

Gayle Boss


Last summer, I signed up for “A Day on the Farm,” a group tour of a large Indiana swine breeding operation. Then I came home and re-read Charlotte’s Web. Something about the pigs I looked at that day—no, I mean something in the way a particular pig looked at me—made me remember the story’s singular pig, Wilbur. It had been at least a decade since I’d read the book to my children, four since I’d read it as a child myself. I didn’t remember that the story opens not with the pig, but with a bold eight-year-old girl, Fern Arable, who throws herself at her father as he is on his way to apply an ax to a newborn runt pig... Read More

Augustine, Genesis, and Natural Science

Jarrett Carty


In 1869, Andrew Dickson White, then president of newly founded Cornell University, gave a lecture entitled “The Battle-Fields Of Science” in the great hall of New York’s Cooper Union  He argued that science had been constantly engaged in a great war with religion, particularly Christianity, and that the progress of scientific truths was constantly and invariably impeded by the interests of Christian clerics. Many years later after a long career as an academic and a diplomat, his History of the Warfare of Science With Theology in Christendom (1896) expanded the argument into a popular indictment of Christianity as a force of scientific ignorance and intellectual repression.... Read More

Also In This Issue
Geoffrey C. Bowden


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

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