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The Cresset
A Review of Literature, Fine Arts, and Current Affairs
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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

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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

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Marilynne Robinson's Home
and the Stories We Tell in Ordinary Time

Dustin D. Benac


The nature of faith demands that we see and hear God in the ordinary realities of our existence. Christians have historically marked this reality with the liturgical season of Ordinary Time, but the very ordinariness of Ordinary Time means that we often have little clue how to inhabit this season, much less how to attend to and tell ordinary stories....Read More

Come to the Table:
Exploring Agrobiodiversity, Relationships,
and Taste with Simran Sethi

Cara Strickland


Although I’ve written about food professionally for the last five years, it’s amazing how often I forget to think about the people and places that produce my food. I pay attention to the way it tastes and how it blends with the other things on my plate or in my glass, but I don’t always pause to wonder what country my tea is from, who made my bread, or what all goes into the microbrew I’m sipping on a Friday night.... Read More

God and Man in Iceland

Thomas Albert Howard


Recently I had the opportunity to lead a study trip to Iceland as part of an ongoing effort to reflect on the legacy of Protestantism in light of the Reformation’s quincentenary in 2017. Like other Scandinavian countries, Iceland has possessed an established Lutheran church since the sixteenth century, even if growing levels of secularity characterize the island republic today. But though I set out to discover Protestantism in Iceland, what first smacked me in the soul was Iceland itself: a geologic peculiarity, a cultural storehouse, a clump of aching beauty plunked down in the heart of the Atlantic.  Read More


Gary Fincke


In space, the hearts of astronauts become rounder. According to the scientists who have studied this phenomenon, the hearts of those who spend long periods of time in space were transformed into a shape that averaged nearly 10 percent more spherical after six months.  Read More

The Hookup Culture, Revisited

Christina Bieber Lake


When it comes to the hookup culture and the question of the impact that our culture’s sexual mores is having on young women, one surprisingly revelatory recent collection of short stories is Katherine Heiny’s Single, Carefree, Mellow. Heiny’s voice is haunting and distinctive, and her perspective is keen. The overall collection feels like a mix between Lena Dunham’s current HBO series Girls, and the older HBO series Sex and the City. It is sharply ironic, laugh-out-loud funny, jarringly intimate, and, in the end, more about the lives and needs of real women than it is about sex.  Read More

Also In This Issue
Aaron Morrison


Ecce Homo—Behold the Man
Photographs by Virgil DiBiase

John Ruff


For a long time, I have enjoyed going to museums and galleries to look at art. I suppose this became a favorite pastime when my wife, Gloria Ruff, and I lived in Rome, Italy during the 1970s. I was teaching sixth grade at the Notre Dame International School run by the Brothers of the Holy Cross. My wife was studying drawing, sculpture, and art history at The American College of Rome, and I often tagged along on field trips, which got us into some of the most beautiful museums, churches, and historical sites in all of Italy.  Read More

Chicken Eight Ways

Amy Peterson


By now it is a trope: city girl trades her high heels and Blackberry for a ramshackle farmhouse, and in tending gardens and chickens, she realizes what is truly important. Yawn. That is not my story. That bucolic vision leaves out some bits, like the way locusts can descend and take out a whole crop, or the fact that chickens will turn on each other, leaving those at the bottom of the pecking order battered and bloody. It is not as if corruption clings to cities, leaving country life pure and good. There is no Garden of Eden in the heartland of America.... Read More

Education on the Way to Emmaus
Luke 24:13–32

Peter Dula

Luke’s account of the journey to Emmaus has been read in a wide variety of ways. It is a story about the Eucharist, or about hospitality, about interpretation of scripture, or about trauma and healing. All of those readings and many others are useful. But without denying any of them, today I want to read the Emmaus journey as a story about education. As college students approach their graduation they are often thinking something like, “I just spent four (or more) years, over forty classes, 128 credits and tens of thousands of dollars, and what do I have to show for it?”... Read More

Blasphemy and the Temporal Kingdom

Jarrett Carty


In many places in the world today, blasphemy is a serious crime against the state. Of course, contemporary democratic regimes with constitutions like the American one, with First Amendment rights and guarantees from government regulation over beliefs and speech acts, usually allow a great degree of freedom in these matters for their citizens. But around the world, blasphemy laws prohibiting any outward manifestation of religious plurality are quite common. In many jurisdictions, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, blasphemy charges can even be prosecuted as a capital offense.... Read More

Also In This Issue


Created for Creativity

Steven R. Guthrie

Late last September, a week or so before the conference that gave rise to this essay, I was lying in bed, desperately wanting to sleep. Instead, I was wide awake with anxiety—thinking about the talk I was to give, how quickly it was coming up, and how very far it was from being written. As I lay there, I offered up a sleepy prayer that went something like: “Oh God, please give me words and ideas for this presentation!” Those who heard the talk I ended up giving can judge whether or not God answered that prayer in particular! A much more interesting question, however, is how we should think about such prayers in general: whether God indeed answers them, and, if so, how. The theme of the conference at which I was speaking was: “Created for Creativity.”  Read More

Look at Your Fish

Jason Crawford

Louis Agassiz (1807–1873) was a Swiss naturalist who made a career for many years at Harvard and whose name still pops up all over the place: on various structures and streets around Cambridge, MA; on natural formations in Arizona, California, outer space, and the deep geological past; in the given name of at least one eminent scientist, the American ornithologist Louis Agassiz Fuentes; and in the scientific classifications of various species, such as Gopherus agassizii, the desert tortoise. Agassiz was a pioneering investigator of the fossil record, the ice age, and the taxonomy of animal life... Read More

Petroglyphs, Unpublished Poetry,
and the Urge to Leave a Mark

Michael Kramer


I had become just a little enraptured by petroglyphs, those scratchings etched into rock whether deeply or just scarring the varnish rock acquires when exposed to the elements over a period of time. I had seen them on walls and boulders on travels with my family. I had, of course, studied them in conjunction with archaeology and anthropology, two disciplines closely aligned to my stock in trade of history and literature. But my first trip to Sedona with my wife began to intensify all that. We were staying in a lovely timeshare built to resemble the Hopi pueblos famous east and north of that Arizona destination. Native American ruins and remnants dot the landscape in the Verde Valley... Read More

Searching for Jerusalem:
Christian Scholarship in Theory and in Practice

Jennifer L. Miller


As an undergraduate at Valparaiso University, I was drawn to the ways in which the campus embraced academic scholarship and Christian faith together, as complementary elements in a person’s life, rather than as opposing forces. A hymn frequently sung at convocation and commencement refers to the campus as both “Athens and Jerusalem,” a center of both intellectual and spiritual wisdom. The university’s motto “In luce tua videmus lucem”—“In Thy Light, We See Light”—is a wonderful expression of how faith enhances scholarship.  But Valpo does more than just talk about faith and scholarship. Many of my professors modeled how rigorous academic inquiry could be rooted in Christian belief with their own scholarship and their interactions with students... Read More

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