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

Also In This Issue


In Their Own Language:
Toward a Receptive Ecumenism in
Christian Higher Education

Richard Ray

What does it mean to be a Christian college? The answer to this question, as it turns out, depends on whom you ask. For some, a college is Christian only if it reflects in a deep, organic way the commitments of its founding denomination. To others, this commitment might render such a college a living embodiment of error, a place that promotes heresy in one form or another. Are these two ends of the continuum irreconcilable? Can professors teach, can students learn, and can each grow in faith on a college campus where an ecology of spiritual gift and reception provides the dominant ethos?... Read More

Protestants, Catholics, and Christian-Muslim Dialogue
on the Church-Related Campus

Anthony Minnema

Recent events at Liberty University and Wheaton College have raised concerns about Islamophobia at church-related colleges and universities. First, Liberty University’s President Jerry Falwell, Jr. encouraged students to obtain concealed-carry permits after the San Bernardino shootings, arguing that “if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walk in, and kill them.” Second, Wheaton College placed Professor Larycia Hawkins on administrative leave for comments on Facebook in which she stated that Christians and Muslims worship the same god. Although Wheaton initiated proceedings to terminate Hawkins’ tenure for failing to uphold the college’s statement of faith, both parties have since come to a confidential agreement that resulted in Hawkins’ resignation from the college... Read More

Broken Bell:
Some Thoughts on Parenting and Poetry

Kjerstin Anne Kauffman

I have three young children. For me, the question “why write?” carries urgency. Why spend precious hours and strenuous mental effort over imperfect poems while battling hormones, leaking breast milk, and desperately in need of sleep? On the other hand, why have another child, and then another, when the timing might not be convenient, when, given the drive to write, there would be more solitude, more time for thought without them?

The urge to mother and the urge to write poems coexist in me. There are philosophical reasons for doing both, to be sure: I act according to my own set of premises about sexuality, creativity, and the good life. More than that, though, these urges are fundamentally connected for me, each dealing with the mystery of life at its source, each making me vulnerable to the suffering of others, and each exposing me to my own moral contradiction, which is a form of pain... Read More

Also In This Issue


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
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