The Confession as Retrospective Narrative: A Genre for Ethnographically-Driven Theology

In: Ecclesial Practices
Todd Whitmore Associate Professor in the Department of Theology and Concurrent Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, USA,

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The fieldwork experience often manifests itself to the researcher as a tangled cluster of thoughts and feelings that is difficult to write into accessible prose. However, pre-set narratives reduce the subjects of the fieldwork to being mere exemplifications of arguments worked out in advance. This article offers the confession as a kind of retrospective narrative that at once renders the field experience accessible to the reader and maintains the three-dimensional fullness of the lives of the fieldwork subjects. The author draws on his work among persons with opioid use disorders to display the possibilities.


Sam1 nearly did himself in again. Hearing that his mother had yet another stroke, he slammed a quarter gram of heroin laced with fentanyl, hopped on his midnight blue Honda Shadow 1100, gunned it towards the hospital, and rocketed straight off County Road D at the 90 degree turn just a half mile from home. He does not remember the rest, but the neighbour whose field served as landing zone for man and bike found them forty feet from the pavement launching point. The bike was totaled. Sam was out, but breathing.

Though it was May, the field had yet to be planted because a still-frozen subsoil refused to absorb spring rains, leaving small and sometimes large ponds of water in every depression, making seeding impossible. Sam, after several hits and tumbles, ended face up in one of these shallow pools. Face down and he dies, drowning without knowing it.

Single – and singular – events in fieldwork often give rise to clusters of emotions and insights. A question for the ethnographer, then, is how to render those clusters into accessible writing, for writing, particularly academic theological writing, is typically linear. Even in largely non-linear writing, there is most often some overall arc or trajectory. It is in significant part this trajectory that makes the writing accessible. The experiential clusters, however, give rise to a mess of feelings and thoughts. Ethnographically-driven theology needs to find ways – to develop genres of writing – that render the affective-cognitive clusters intelligible to readers.

I am a Certified Addiction Peer Recovery Coach working with Sam. I was angry. This was Sam’s fourth vehicle accident, all while high. He was putting not only himself, but others at risk; this was in addition to the economic and health impact of his ongoing addiction on his aging parents. My anger mixed with grief. A nun when I was doing fieldwork in northern Uganda described being in the conflict zone at the time, “Everybody is on Good Friday every day.” It certainly often feels that way working with persons addicted to opioids and methamphetamine. And grief pressed up against the need to do some moral reckoning. Sam’s addiction is indeed slowly killing his parents – health problems made significantly worse by stress and strained finances. With this cluster of things, how am I to represent what is going on in a way that is accessible to the reader?

Problems with Narrative and the Prospect of Confession

I and two others have looked at your ms. We are baffled. We are baffled not because we don’t think you have something to say – and are fully equipped to do so, and robustly so – but because we simply cannot find a/the line through your ms….I have decided I am not going to pursue publication…I am fearful I would want to introduce far, far, far more of linear thought and discourse into your project.

rejection email for Imitating Christ in magWi from publishing editor2

The problem with the usual kind of linearity in theology – a linearity of entailed argument (“this, by reason, leads to that”) – is that it carries with it the liability of reducing the lived and thickly described scenes from the field to mere illustrations of an argument that could have been made without the fieldwork at all. It is, I think, not incidental that in the times when editors have asked me to cut the length of an article, they have always indicated – often strongly so – that it is the thick description sections that ought to be cut, suggesting that they are less important than any particular step or qualification in the argument. Such an inclination turns the people in the scenes into distant, two-dimensional, lifeless props.

Even what is called “post-liberal” or “narrative theology,” to the extent that it includes life descriptions at all,3 also falls prey to this two-dimensional rendering of human life. Stanley Hauerwas, for instance, calls the church “an empirical reality,” and insists on its narrativization, because, “The church does not have a social ethic; the church is a social ethic.”4 Hauerwas thinks he has given thick descriptions that render the lives of the people he depicts palpable. However, when he joined with William Willimon to write Where Resident Aliens Live, he did so to address the criticism that they had not provided adequate descriptions in their earlier work, Resident Aliens. “We are surprised when many persons say, ‘Where in the world is this church which you describe?’ Or ‘The church you want doesn’t exist.’ We thought we had bent over backward, in our illustrations and narratives in Resident Aliens, to use examples that were ordinary, local, and typical, so as to underscore that the sort of prophetic church we had in mind already exists, at least in glimpses.”5 His use of the terms “illustrations” and “examples” are themselves illustrative of the problem: his descriptions of the peoples’ lives serve simply as prooftexts for a predetermined account of how authentic Christians live, an approach that Nicholas Healy calls “blueprint ecclesiology.”6

But what if the narrative were developed retrospectively? That is to say, after time and consideration in sorting through the disarray and sometimes wreckage of life lived, we look back to discern if there might be patterns, even a more or less linear trajectory, to events. In the history of Christian theology, the genre of the confession does just this. Although the writer places herself in the text, traditionally the confession is a form of self-writing meant to convey less the self than God and the world. It is writing that uses the self to testify to God and the world God has made. Found in writings from Augustine’s Confessions to Dorothy Day’s The Long Loneliness, it is a mode of representation marked by a double movement: it both allows the self to be present in the text and ultimately – if it works as confession – de-centers the self in that writing. In response to the criticism of the editor of my manuscript, I went back over the text of Imitating Christ in Magwi and discerned a certain trajectory that I then divided into four “movements”. This four-part structure gave some linearity to the text, and the next publishing house I went to accepted the manuscript. Commentators on the book often note that structure early on, but what is important for our purposes is that developing the structure and the linearity it provided was the last writerly act I did before sending the manuscript off again. The book as a whole took on a certain kind of linear sense only in retrospect. Perhaps we can do something analogous with the thought-affect cluster that arose in me in response to Sam. There is no guarantee that a narrative will emerge – reality is often stubborn that way. The process requires that the various parts be put forward first, followed by discernment of whatever interconnections there might be. It is an approach that requires a kind of patience, a willingness to live with an ambiguity that might not pay off.

Sam Again: The Affective-Cognitive Cluster in More Detail

“What the fuck were you thinking?”

His patients call him Dr. B, because his full Slavic name is too difficult for most of them to pronounce and takes too long to say. He is, in my opinion, our local street-saint. His usual speech-pattern is a non-accented monotone that masks an intensity that regularly double-books his appointments so that all who come to him can receive care. Sam’s heroin/fentanyl-driven accident seems to have agitated Dr. B as well.

“Just what the fuck were you thinking?”

The certification training for recovery coaches emphasizes that, along with being a “truth-teller,” “problem solver,” “resource broker,” and “advocate,” one of the roles of the recovery coach is to “encourage hope.”7 We do this in part simply by our presence: we are embodied evidence that recovery is possible (recovery coaches are typically themselves in recovery; that is the value-added that we bring to the panoply of services available for persons with addictions). We also support the recoveree by providing positive reinforcement. In addiction recovery, there is no victory too small to celebrate. When one of the persons I am working with informed me that although he still was on coke and Xanax, he had stopped using heroin, I said (and meant), “Excellent! Wonderful!” When he, on coke and Xanax, wrecked his car, lost his job, and spent all of the money he was saving up to get his own apartment and so move out of his parent’s home, I pointed out that he, even after all that, still met with me, which meant that he had not given up on himself. Again, no victory is too small to celebrate. Hope – which I take to be the ability to imagine inhabiting a better world than the present one – is the sine qua non of recovery.

When my coke and Xanax guy collapsed in on himself, began using heroin again, and got arrested boosting widescreen tv’s from Walmart, my first internal response, however, was anger. My version of “What the fuck were you thinking?” was “After all I’ve done…” I had brought him as a guest to a local gym multiple times because he liked to work out, and I figured that if I went, he would too (and he did for a while). I helped him find a used, broken down motorcycle because he liked to work on motors and also needed transportation to work. We did the local treetops obstacle course together. “After all I’ve done…”

As mentioned, in Sam’s case, he is slowly, but truly, killing his parents, both already in their seventies. His parents have legal custody of his daughters because of his drug habit. Thus, his mother’s high blood pressure. In the past year, his father has had both cancer and double pneumonia, and still wakes up nights in cold sweats because of the stress. Sam was supposed to take over the family business. Instead, in addition to stealing and pawning twenty thousand dollars’ worth of farm and construction equipment over a four-month period to feed his gram-a-day habit, he stole his parents’ checkbook, and now their balance is in the red. His father told me, “I’m damned broke”.

I found myself thinking in Sam’s direction, “Fuck you. Fuckityfuckfuckfuck you.”

That is hardly the comportment of a recovery coach whose role is to provide avenues of hope. But to provide hope, one has to have hope, and finding hope in Sam’s situation – and developing the dispositions necessary to sustain it – is difficult.

It is things like this news report that give Sam’s father the night sweats and drives up his mother’s blood pressure. After hocking family construction implements, Sam disappears for days on a binge. I saw the above article and thought it must be him. Instead of “fuckityfuckfuckfuck you,” it was “Oh, no.” Anger gave way to grief. Odd thing was, Sam was incarcerated at the time, and so, it would seem, it could not be him. But addiction is, as the nomenclature goes, a “chronic relapsing disease,” so the grief is chronic and recurring. It is not a one-off event. “Everybody is on Good Friday every day.” More, the destabilizing effect of having a loved one addicted to heroin creates a kind of demonic magical realism where you are never quite sure of your facts. Thus, his father’s fever dreams. I knew, cognitively, that Sam was in jail at the time, but given the way that trying to be present to him in his addiction has rewired my synapses much like the drugs have rewired his, I had to double-check what I knew. There is a kind of reverse of the resurrection hope: despite all evidence, given what I know of his whereabouts, it must be him, the person shot in the news article. Then, after a few moments, “No, no, it can’t be him. He’s in jail.”

When Sam was in the midst of his latest binge, his father and I considered the possibility of turning him in to the authorities, for his own safety and that of others. It is one of the most difficult kinds of conversations I have with parents. This time, however, the criminal system made the decision for us. A police officer saw a slow-moving vehicle with the driver slumped over the wheel heading down the main street of a northern Indiana town. The officer leapt from his own vehicle, ran to Sam’s car, opened the driver’s side door, and threw the car into park. He administered naloxone to Sam, who otherwise would likely have died.

I do not have ready answers for how to undertake the askēsis that shapes a person’s dispositions so as to live in hope in the midst of chronic recurring grief. I am not sure that I can sustain being a recovery coach. I do know that the kind of askēsis necessary is not the this-worldly or inner-worldly asceticism that Weber associates with the Puritans.8 During one stretch of anger, I bought a medal of St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes, to facilitate in me hope on behalf of my recoverees. It reminds me of the necessary psychological and cosmological context for being a recovery coach for persons with severe addictions. When anger gave way to chronic grief, I bought an Our Lady of Sorrows medal. I wear both medals on a thin neck chain. I cannot claim to have reoriented myself around Jude and Our Lady in any comprehensive way. Living with hope when every day is Good Friday is hard. What I can say, however, is that attending to these tasks has now taken a kind of priority over, without denigrating, getting method just right, because otherwise the work of being a recovery coach and a scholar of addiction is simply not possible to sustain. Now, how to write my way through this affective-cognitive mess?

A Theological Model: Augustine’s Confessions

You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.

augustine, confessions9

It helps to have a theological classic to stand as a possible model. There is enough of a match between “our heart is restless until it rests in you” and my claim in Imitating Christ in Magwi that anthropological theology must be done “in the middle of things” and is “always on the move” to look to Augustine’s Confessions for guidance.10 One commentator even describes the Confessions as “anthropological theology.”11

The Confessions is not autobiography. It leaves out much information that an autobiography would normally have, indicating a different selection process for inclusion. And again, rather than being about the self, it uses the self as a medium to talk about God and the world that God has made.12 More precisely, the Confessions is about the role of grace in human salvation. It proceeds in three movements. The first nine books portray Augustine’s past, and carries the connotation of confession as an allocutus of sins for which God nonetheless does not punish the defendant, but rather offers grace. Book Ten is Augustine’s account of his (then) present self, a confession as testimony to that grace. The last three books offer a commentary on the first chapter of Genesis, a confession of the world that God has made. Augustine therefore ends his story with an account of the beginning of all things, signaling again that the Confessions is not fundamentally about him, but about God and the world. Still, although there is a narrative trajectory (constructed retrospectively), Augustine’s is not a neat linearity. There remains debate as to what, if anything, is the unifying theme. Still, there is enough of a trajectory to bring the reader through the text.

We can read Augustine onto what I have told about myself and Sam thus far. The first part is a confession of our sins. I have described Sam’s vehicular recklessness; I have not yet mentioned my own. During my own period of active addiction, twice I passed out while driving a car in excess of sixty miles per hour. I could have killed someone, including myself. Then I sinned a second time. In my work with Sam (and others), I let my anger towards them and their failures eclipse the hope that I was to have for them and pass onto them. I allowed the things I had done for them to grow into an expectation that they respond with a gratitude that manifested itself in abstinence from drugs. But as one of my coaching mentors told me, “Expectation is premeditated resentment.”13 Thus the anger.

Augustine’s movement beyond repeating his past sins pivots on his having two mystical visions – direct encounters with God.14 I am not there yet.

An Anthropological Model: Michael Jackson’s At Home in the World

If the claim of anthropological theology is that it is interdisciplinary, then perhaps we can find analogues to the confession genre in anthropology. I suggest that Michael Jackson’s At Home in the World is a text suggestively rich for this purpose. This is not to say that Jackson views himself as having written a confession, only that there are enough shared characteristics with the confession genre to merit comment. His At Home in the World is at once a study of the Walpiri people of the Tanami Desert in Central Australia and an investigation of what it means to be “at home.” It shares that restlessness with the confession genre of seeking a kind of peace. More, his fieldwork methodology leads him to affirm, also like the confession, a “philosophy which begins in media res, with particular phenomena.”15 He writes, “I wanted to develop a writing style which would be consonant with lived experience, in all its variety and ambiguity.” He quotes Helene Cixous: “You don’t need to master. To demonstrate, explain, grasp. And then to lock away in a strongbox. To pocket a part of the riches of the world. But rather to transmit: to make things loved by making them known.”16 Here is the restless confession that refuses to reduce concrete narrative to a mere collection of illustrations. Like with the confession, Jackson places himself in the narrative, and he tells the reader about his learning the Walpiri language, the difficulties of bringing his infant son on one of his trips, and the problems of writing in this mode in an academy that craves verification.17 Inquiry, for Jackson and the confession genre, is “a way of taking a journey.”18 He therefore frequently comments on his affective responses to events. “I was overwhelmed.” “I did not feel comfortable…” “At first I felt sorry for Pepper.” “Startled, I wheeled around.”19 Like with Augustine, where being called for confession as testimony includes the confession of sin. Jackson writes, “I was white. George was black. Therefore he belonged to those who were killed and I belonged to those who did the killing.”20

It is precisely his confessing of his experience in what to him is a foreign land that brings Jackson closest to theology. Despite arguing strongly against any kind of transcendence, he acknowledges the necessity of a certain kind of “grace” and at least a “provisional faith” in order to undertake the journey at all.21 This is the confession as witness. Here are echoes of anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes’ comment that it is in “witness” that anthropology becomes “almost theological.”22 We can sometimes find a kind of union with the other, and with all that is.

Jackson tells the story of multiple flat tires when trekking across the desert:

  1. We had three spares. We used them all. With the fourth puncture we were faced with the time-consuming task of patching tubes and bringing them up to full pressure with a small foot pump.
  2. Francine and I were sunburned. Our hands were cut and bruised. Zack and Nugget said they were buggered and didn’t have the strength left to work the pump. And Pincher was beginning to panic…
  3. A hot wind brushed the spinifex. I heard the momentary trill and lisp of a bird. The landscape seemed to claim me…
  4. This was where white men had suffered “desert sickness” and “desert nerve strain,” and come to see Aboriginal people as the very embodiment of the cruel, treacherous, and unstable character of the desert itself…
  5. Then, it was as though some weight shifted inside me. I felt an all-encompassing calm. A window flung open onto a field of light. I had not the slightest desire to be on my way to Europe, or to be anywhere else. I had come to the place I had always wanted to come.
  6. At that moment, sitting there with Zack and Nugget, Pincher and Francine, I think I knew what it means to be at home in the world. It is to experience complete consonance with one’s own body and the body of the earth. Between self and other. It matters little whether the other is a landscape, a loved one, a house, or an action. Things flow. There seems to be no resistance between oneself and the world.”23

This is Jackson’s mystical moment in his confession. He has difficulty re-articulating in Western philosophical language what enables such moments. He notes the limits of language in general several times.24 At one point, he draws from the anthropologist Fred Myers to use Tillichian “ground of being” language, but he is closer to his own terms when he says that there is a kind of “homing impulse, the yearning of a dispersed people to be ‘rooted in one dear perpetual place.”25 It is here that he is perhaps closest to Augustine’s “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” In the end, “home” is Jackson’s word for a kind of eschatological rest.

Sam Once More: The Already Consecrated

There is thick plexiglass between us, smeared with handprints on both sides from people seeking to touch palms with their loved ones. Sam’s shackles are too tight, and his hand cannot get to the phone on his side, even when he slides his waist chain up under his armpits to extend his reach. He gets up from his chair, and shuffles in a stooped posture out of momentary view to the corrections officer, where he requests that the chains be loosened just a bit.

St. Joseph County Jail was built in the 1960s and has still not updated to video visits. In Monroe County, they have computer tablets that an inmate can sign out. It is hard to know which is better, the direct face to face time, or video time without the manacles.

Unlike Augustine, I cannot claim two mystical visions to serve as pivot points for my confession, but I can point to two of what could be called moments of insight. The first was instigated by one of my colleagues who asked about the Christological status of my recoverees. Based upon my previous fieldwork, I developed an imitatio spiritual discipline, where one imitates someone who is a good exemplar of what it looks like to imitate Christ. It is precisely this praxis that led me to working as an addiction recovery coach in the first place. Multiple scriptural passages fed this way of looking at the world, the parables of the prodigal son, the lost sheep, and the lost coin among them. “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one who is lost until he finds it?” (Luke 15: 1). In the parable of the prodigal son, the Christ-like figure is the literal father. When Sam phoned his father from jail to try to get bail money, the latter at first refused to take the call. “I’m done with him,” he told me. But in that same conversation, Sam’s father said, “I know there is a conscience in there somewhere when he ain’t high,” suggesting that he is still waiting for his son, who is still prodigal, to return. I find much to admire and imitate in the parents who will not give up on their addicted children. But that is about the aspired Christological status for me: to imitate Christ like the nuns in Uganda and the parents in northern Indiana; what, my colleague asked me, about the status of Sam himself? For this, another gospel passage is suggestive.

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (matthew 25: 34–40).

Like the parables of the lost sheep and the prodigal son, this one of the last judgment specifies what imitating Christ looks like: it involves going out to sinners and to those in need to provide material and spiritual support. Notable in this last passage is that Jesus does not concern himself with the question of why a person might be hungry or thirsty or naked or sick or in prison. Therefore, the question of whether Jesus tells us to go out to actual sinners or simply to those whom society deems as such is moot. It does not matter. There is no distinction between the deserving and undeserving. Therefore, the contemporary oppositional debate about whether the person in addiction is a moral deviant and criminal through their own doings or is someone with a “brain disease” who needs medical care is irrelevant as to whether we go out to them or not. The recovery coach does make specific assessments about what precisely to say and do in light of what the training manual calls the “Stages of Change” of a person moving from addiction to recovery, but whether to be present to the recoveree is not in question.26 Why is this the case in the biblical passage?

What is striking about the Last Judgment passage is that Jesus highlights the Christological status of those receiving our attention and care, and in doing so answers my colleague’s question: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” The persons receiving our attention and care are Christs, and they need not do anything to achieve this status. It might be tempting to object that they are merely representative or symbolic of Him, but the second half of this passage, told in the negative, underscores the identity between the least of these and Christ.

Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’” (luke 25:41–45, emphases added).

“Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry…?” leads directly to “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” What we have in Matthew 25, then, is a consecration Christology, like in the logic of the Eucharist where the bread and wine are, and are not just representations of, Christ. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me,” are Words of Consecration, just like, “this is my body.” To be more adequate, then, we must pair any imitatio Christology with a consecratio Christology. This consecration Christology, if I am right about it, likely is the most difficult Gospel teaching, right alongside that of “love our enemies”: the “dirtbags”27 among us are the already consecrated and transubstantiated ones. Sam – reckless, harmful, shackled, at once oblivious and tortured Sam – is Christ.

This theological insight, pressed upon me by my colleague’s question, led to another moment of insight: I began going to Eucharistic Adoration. There is not any logical entailment between seeing Sam as Christ and this spiritual practice, but there is a coherence of discernment: the bread as the real Body seen through the window of the monstrance is the same as Sam as the real Christ seen through the plexiglass at the jail. The two practices – visiting Sam and Eucharistic Adoration – reinforce each other: it is when I am before the Host that it seems most possible that I can continue in the work of recovery coaching, and it is precisely this work that drives me to seek out the Host.

Retrospective Narrativity

It is possible, in retrospect, to discern a kind of narrative in my interactions with Sam. What began as a cluster of thoughts and emotions from anger to grief led to the insight that fieldwork requires not just good academic method narrowly considered – questions of how many months of participant observation is necessary or how many subjects one must interview – but also a set of dispositions that come about only through a kind of askēsis, a training of the self. It then became clear that the necessary dispositions were not part of a this-worldly or inner-worldly asceticism, but required, for me at least, a transcendent referent, one, moreover, that is also capable of this-worldly intervention on our behalf. Engagement in this askēsis has led to the substantive insight that while I may try to imitate Christ in my work as a recovery coach, my recoverees are already Christs.

I hope that I have written the above narrative while still being true to Sam’s story in all its complexity. Here, it is important that the primary coherence (of a sort) that one is after in writing anthropological theology is not a linear coherence of argument, but the coherence/incoherence of the lives told. By now, you know the lives of Sam and his parents, at least as I have experienced them, at least to some degree. When we allow an argument to eclipse the lives of the persons, we reduce their lives to mere illustrations of what we wanted to say anyway. Writing narrative only retrospectively is part of an attempt to preserve the integrity of the lives of the persons described. This is where Hauerwas goes awry, and it is why, after he felt he “bent over backwards” to describe his model church, his readers still asked, “‘Where in the world is this church which you describe?’ Or ‘The church you want doesn’t exist.’” Hauerwas reduces the people he describes to mere illustrations. I hope that I have written in a way that does not necessitate the questions, “Where in the world is this Sam which you describe?” or “The Sam you describe does not exist.” I want you to know that Sam exists; I want you to know Sam.


“Sam,” is a pseudonym.


This is a condensed version of two back-to-back emails from the editor, in reference to Todd D Whitmore, Imitating Christ in Magwi: An Anthropological Theology (London/New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, Plc, 2019).


For a critique of post-liberal narrative theology for its lack of concrete depictions of Christian lives that it calls for, see Whitmore, Imitating Christ in Magwi, 327–334 and 362–364.


On the claim that the church is an empirical reality, Hauerwas, The Hauerwas Reader, 382; for the claim that the church is a social ethic, see Stanley Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1991), p. 99.


Hauerwas and Willimon, Where Resident Aliens Live: Exercises for Christian Practice (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1996), 17.


Nicholas Healy, Church, World, and the Christian Life: Practical-Prophetic Ecclesiology (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 38.


Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery, Recovery Coach Academy (Hartford, CT: Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery, 2013), 19–20.


Max Weber, Economy and Society, ed. by Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich (Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1978).


Augustine, Confessions, I.1.


Whitmore, Imitating Christ in Magwi, 2–3.


Frederick Van Fleteren, “Confessiones,” in Allan D. Fitzgerald, Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub Co, 1999), 228.


The genre of autobiography, which aims to be primarily about the self, is a more recent development. Most accounts date the start of the genre of autobiography with Rousseau’s Confessions. Despite the traditional title, Rousseau’s effort was to write about his self. “I have resolved on an enterprise which has no precedent, and which, once complete, will have no imitator. My purpose is to display to my kind a portrait in every way true to nature, and the man I shall portray is myself. Simply myself.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Confessions (London: Penguin Books, Ltd, 1953), 17.


The phrase is that of Nate Rush of the Indiana Credentialing Association for Alcohol and Drug Abuse (icaada).


Augustine, Confessions, vii and ix.


Michael Jackson, At Home in the World (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1995), ix.


Ibid., 4 and 163–64.


Ibid, 18, 126ff, 148, and 163–168.


Ibid, 163.


Ibid., 50, 63, 68, and 66.


Ibid., 24.


Ibid., 120 and 123.


Nancy Scheper-Hughes, “The Primacy of the Ethical: Propositions for a Militant Anthropology,” in Henrietta L. Moore and Todd Sanders, Anthropology in Theory: Issues in Epistemology (West Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons, 2014), 419.


Jackson, At Home in the World., 110–111.


Ibid., 5–6, 125, 142, and 160–61.


Ibid., 58 and 49.


Those stages are precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery, Recovery Coach Academy (Hartford, CT: Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery, 2013), 58–63. See also Gerard J. Connors, Carlo C. DiClemente, Mary Marden Velasquez, and Dennis M. Donovan, Substance Abuse Treatment and the Stages of Change: Selecting and Planning Interventions, second edition (New York: The Guilford Press, 2013).


This is the term someone I met while skiing gave to those he took to be typical opioid addicts when I told him of my recovery coach work.

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