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

Splendor and Solemnity
Bach at Advent

Andrew White


Johann Sebastian Bach is one of the most influential composers in the Western music tradition, and, arguably, the greatest composer of Protestant church music. If the latter is true, it is ironic that Bach’s church cantatas, which represent the heart of his sacred compositional output, are among the least familiar of his works. Alfred Dürr, in the preface to the first edition of The Cantatas of J.S. Bach (1971), laments the “Cinderella status” of the cantatas. In recent years, Bach’s cantatas have become better known due to numerous recordings of complete cycles and exciting projects like John Eliot Gardiner’s “Bach Cantata Pilgrimage...  Read More

Requisites of Love
The Films of Sarah Polley

Fredrick Barton


Near the end of his life, my father had a heart attack that left his brain deprived of adequate blood flow for crucial minutes. He survived to live another three years, but he never recovered his intellectual prowess. A professor, theologian, and writer of prodigious analytical acumen, he was left in his final days unable to do third-grade arithmetic problems. He was embarrassed when I had to help him balance his checkbook. Such experiences with loved ones are sadly common as we age, and certainly anyone who has cared for someone in decline will be a receptive audience for debut writer/director Sarah Polley’s brilliant Away from Her...  Read More

Inflatable Youth

Jeffrey Galbraith

Travel enhances a person’s taste and vision. It can blind and make dizzy. It can cause whiplash and unmoor. I see it clearly. As a college student in Mexico years ago, I am a young adult in enormous sensuous contact with the world. I might look like an ordinary tourist, paying a few coins to photograph a squat woman with an iguana on her head, or holding my nose to drink the milk of an agave plant. More accurately, I am a sensualist. I yearn to close the distance that separates me from my surroundings.   Read More

Through a Pint Glass Darkly
Edgar Wright's The World's End

Charles Andrews


D. H. Lawrence’s final book Apocalypse was a uniquely Lawrentian commentary on the biblical book of Revelation. Part political treatise, part avant-garde poem, part scriptural exegesis, and part erotic fantasy, this work provides a fitting conclusion for a writer whose ambition was no less than a revitalization of all humanity through an expanding spiritual and sexual consciousness... Lawrence’s glance backward at his youth through a heady mixture of nostalgia, embarrassment, and apocalypse is intoxicating, much like the blend served up in the latest film by Edgar Wright. With The World’s End...  Read More

Also In This Issue
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