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The Cresset
A Review of Literature, Fine Arts, and Current Affairs
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Homecoming at Middle Age

David C. Yamada

For many years after my 1981 graduation from Valparaiso University, I regarded my student days as spanning one of the duller stretches of U.S. history. As a late Baby Boomer, I had missed out on the Sixties experience, and the decade that followed seemed comparatively tame and banal. The overall state of politics and public affairs fueled much of that impression, but so too did popular culture (Captain & Tennille, anyone?) and the everyday experience of campus life. Read More

Can Christianity Save the Humanities?

Douglas Jacobsen & Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen

In 1995, the book How the Irish Saved Civilization became a best-seller by boldly claiming that Western civilization was preserved from utter destruction when the Roman Empire collapsed only through the holy resolve of heroic monks like Saint Columba and his co-laborers in Ireland. Historians have questioned the grandiosity of the book’s claim, but the book’s provocative title provides an apt metaphor for the potential relationship that exists between Christianity and the humanities in contemporary American higher education. In a time when the values of the humanities are being questioned, might Christianity offer a way to “save” the humanities from academic oblivion? Read More

The Polyvalent Potentiality of Vocation in Net-Zero Construction

Stewart Herman

As a youngster, I waited impatiently—and in vain—for my pastor to preach about the material world, the world I inhabited. He addressed the domain of the spirit, while I was fascinated by cars and model airplanes. I wanted to build, to make something. At about that time, H. Richard Niebuhr popularized (for theologians) the term “man the maker,” identifying the urge to create as a powerful human drive. I recall during my early adolescence standing at the crude workbench in our basement, racking my brain for an idea of something to build, and frustrated by my lack of skill. Perhaps Jesus with his years as a “tekton” could have imparted a suggestion, but not likely. The Jesus I heard about was far too busy with the more spiritual callings of healing and preaching—activities superior and irrelevant to my fascination with the material world. Read More

Four Things an Alien Civilization Would Learn about the West If All They Watched Was HBO's Westworld

Christina Bieber Lake

The original film Westworld is a campy delight. Produced in 1973, it can’t help its Cheez-Whiz feel. But the story, written by Michael Crichton, has a gold-mine of a premise that was just begging for an upgrade. It was no surprise that Jonathan Nolan teamed up with HBO to produce a new series by the same name. And it is fun, fun, fun. Read More

The Funny Thing about Idols

David Heddendorf

“Devices” we call them, the cunningly wrought objects we’re never without. Cradled lovingly, reached for unconsciously, clung to with a deep and mostly unacknowledged need, they’re at once our symbols of self-absorption and, increasingly, the locus of our public life. They disrupt our communion with God, family, friends. They steal our time. They lead us into temptation. Long before our children text and drive, or discover what sexting is, or succumb to cyberbullies, we leave them to their devices—like any Canaanite offering sons and daughters to Molech. Read More

Also In This Issue
Bill Stadick
Barbara Crooker
Chelsea Wagenaar


The Treasury of Valparaiso:
New Acquisitions in Context
at the Brauer Museum of Art

John Ruff

Here is one thing most people—even people at Valparaiso University—do not know: as unlikely as it is that a small Lutheran university in Northwest Indiana would have a basketball program as strong as Valpo’s, it is even more unlikely it would have a museum with a collection as rich and as deep as that which resides quietly and unobtrusively at the Brauer Museum of Art. Read More

An Order for Delivery:
How the Food and Birth Movements Connect,
and What One Can Learn from the Other

Agnes R. Howard

On a recent flight I sat behind a dad flying solo with three daughters, a comparative rarity from which it was hard to look away. The eldest in the window seat used earbuds to defend her personal space. The baby squirmed on the father’s lap. The middle child spent most of the flight watching construction of an elaborate cake on the Food Network, whisk attachment sending up billows of whipped cream, offset spatula spreading batter across the whole of the child’s small screen.  Read More

A New History Museum Tries to Get Religion

James B. LaGrand

The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), the latest history museum to be added to the Mall in Washington, D.C., is approaching its first birthday. It has already proved a massive success. It has drawn well over a million visitors and created a buzz about how to acquire the much-coveted advance online passes. Read More

Deaf in the Brain

Gary Fincke

When my father looked confused, his neighbor told him to put the car in neutral and steer while he pushed it into the street. My father didn’t move, but he let his neighbor open the car door and do as he pleased. In a minute the car was parked along the curb. “Bill,” his neighbor said, “look at all that gas on the ground. You’re lucky you didn’t blow yourself up. What did you run over?”  Read More

Al Spangler

Thomas C. Willadsen

Three years ago my passengers were in the Congo hiding from war’s crossfire. Now they are in my Prius on slippery Wisconsin roads, maybe not fearing for their lives, but certainly wondering, “How did we get here? And who is this guy driving the car?”  Read More

Also In This Issue
Jeanne Murray Walker
Andrew D. Miller
Julie Sumner
Julie L. Moore
Tiffany Eberle Kriner


Reforming Our Visions of City Nature

Lea F. Schweitz

Let me tell you a story. It’s one that my family tells about my mother as a young girl on a family outing. The only thing I know about this outing is that my mom was bitten by a Canada goose (Branta canadensis). Since geese don’t technically have teeth, the story may be slightly exaggerated. In defense of the goose, it is likely that there were goslings nearby, and she was simply trying to protect them. However, my mom’s encounter left an impression. Read More

Christ in the University: Edmund Schlink's Vision

Matthew L. Becker

For the past decade, I have regularly taught a course on Christians in Nazi Germany, a topic that seems more relevant today than when I started. One of the theologians we examine in that course is Edmund Schlink (1903-1984), who taught ecumenical theology at Heidelberg University after the Second World War.  Read More

Remembering Arlin: The "Gentle Giant of Christ College and the Lilly Fellows Program

Mark R. Schwehn

When I first returned to Valparaiso University in 1983 to take a teaching position in Christ College, my dean was Arlin Meyer. As I was settling in to my new office early one morning, I discovered that Arlin was watering and otherwise tending the garden in the Mueller Hall courtyard. As I watched Arlin do this as part of his morning ritual every day for as long as the weather permitted it, I thought it was simply his own way of unwinding and centering himself. But I came to realize that this gardening was really a preparation for what was in a word Arlin’s life work: teaching. Read More

Uniting Liberal and Professional Learning through Christian Mission

Stephany Schlachter

To some degree, the campaign to advance liberal arts has created a separation between liberal and professional education. But perhaps a constructive strategy might be more effective: integrating liberal and professional education grounded in practice as well as in mission.  Read More

Jesuit Higher Education in the Age of Pope Francis

Peter Ely, S.J.

No one was more surprised at the election of a Jesuit Pope than the Jesuits themselves. We never thought that was a possibility. It would certainly have surprised Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, who didn’t even want Jesuits to become bishops at all, let alone the Bishop of Rome. So when the news came on March 13, 2013, that Jorge Bergoglio, an Argentine Jesuit, had been elected pope and taken the name Francis—not in honor of the Jesuit Francis Xavier but of the Franciscan Francis of Assisi—we were startled, and more than a little nervous, too.  Read More

Into the Wilderness

Paul J. Willis

In the college where I teach there is now an Office of Educational Effectiveness—which, to increase its Orwellian elegance, may as well be called the Office of Efficacious Educational Effectiveness. I have suggested we ban the term educational effectiveness and replace it with the word learningRead More

Also In This Issue
Jeremy Michael Reed
J. T. Ledbetter


Finding the Book

David Heddendorf

A close friend told me recently that he can no longer read the Bible. He isn't as angry as Frank Schaeffer, whose Why I Am an Atheist Who Believes in God kicked up a fuss a couple of years ago, but like Schaeffer he's the son of a Calvinist preacher and has spent a long time searching for an alternative path. Read More

The Towpath

Sarah Hinlicky Wilson

I used to have a singularly long and skinny backyard, thirty-six miles from end to end and about ten feet wide: the towpath along the Delaware and Raritan Canal. Sometimes I shared it with others, on Sunday afternoons with the leisurely sorts and at either end of the workday with the jogging sorts.  Read More

Reading Shirley Jackson

Michael Kramer

I grow concerned about Shirley Jackson. Perhaps I grow sad. I suppose that seems rather odd--she's been dead since just before my birthday in 1965, before my freshman year in high school. And, after all, the reputation of the woman and the respect she's earned as a writer depend little on my opinion or concerns. Read More

What the World Needs Now

Kevin Cawley

Tode had to walk the dog. I was visiting him from out of town and wanted to talk, so I went along. We found our way to the topic of What the World Needs Now.  Read More

On Becoming Grief Outlaws

Jacqueline Bussie

In the eighteenth century in Tahiti, women in mourning used a shark's tooth to cut a small, deep scratch in their foreheads. The cut permanently scarred the woman's face, rendering it a grief-letter to the world, postmarked: I have loved and lost.  Read More

What We Carry, and Lose, Along the Way

Joel Kurz

On an early morning in May of 2015, my brother and sister and I strapped on our backpacks in an immigrant corner of Bilbao, Spain, and began walking the northern route of The Way of St. James. Even though each of us had gone out for trial hikes with weighted packs in preceding weeks, something about the initial feeling of this journey's actual heft on our shoulders, backs, and hips steeled us with resolve for waht we had undertaken. Read More

Of Fathers and Sons and a Used Tire

Preston Thomas

One hardly needed episode VII of Star Wars for the revelation that relationships between fathers and sons can be problematic. The mythic pathos of father and son conflicting amid mutual misunderstanding had already been played out between Luke and Darth Vader. The trope of father-son mutual incomprehension has a long and reputable history in folklore, literature, and, of course, more recently, film and television. Read More

Also In This Issue


Muriel Spark's Theological Fiction

David Heddendorf

Muriel Spark, who died in 2006, has always resisted classification. Born in Edinburgh in 1918 to a Jewish father and a Gentile mother of, biographer Martin Stannard observes, "eclectic religious tastes," she made her way, with no college education, through a brief unhappy marriage, a sojourn in Africa, a stint of wartime propaganda work, and a hand-to-mouth existence as a London woman of letters, before emerging in her forties as a best-selling, critically acclaimed novelist....Read More

The 2016 Election Roundtable

Chris W. Bonneau, Jennifer Hora, David Lott, and Geoffrey Bowden

I have been a professional political scientist since 2002. I study American politics from a quantitative perspective, which means I deal exclusively with data, not "momentum" or "feelings." And in the early hours of November 9, 2016, much about elections that I thought I knew I discovered I did not.... Read More

We've Lost that Losing Feeling: A Response to the 2016 Chicago Cubs Season

Thomas C. Willadsen

Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the Chicago Cubs' most recent campaign, I too decided, after investigating the matter carefully, to write an account to you, Baseballphile, so that you may know the Truth. The stunning, earth-shattering truth that Cubs fans have been lifted out of darkness into the light and peace of a World Series championship. Far more than Hope, our faith is the evidence of things that are now at last seen, such as a pennant flying on the North Side of Chicago.... Read More

On the Twelfth Night of Christmas

Cara Strickland

I waited with great anticipation for the cake to be cut. Inside, I knew, were all of the members of the nativity story, small wooden figures suspended inside the chocolate cake. I couldn't wait to get my piece and see who might be inside. If it was baby Jesus, I knew I would get a prize.  Read More

Bound by Grief: Writing through the Loss of a Child

Harold K. Bush

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, and W. E. B. Du Bois all shared one harrowing experience that shaped their writing and careers in profound ways, yet few readers know this fact. These great nineteenth-century American figures all wrote in the context of their suffering as bereaved parents. They found themselves inducted into a club that nobody wants to join, yet somehow each of them found constructive ways to remember their beloved dead. Read More

Also In This Issue
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