I have been on a memoir kick this year. I tend to read through a genre or subject areas quite a bit and then set it aside for a while. This year my memoir reading has been consciously seeking out wisdom from elder Christians.
I picked up Hannah’s Child looking for something like Eugene Peterson’s memoir The Pastor or Thomas Oden’s memoir A Change of Heart. I have not previously read much by Hauerwas. The only full book that I think I have read is Resident Aliens, which I read in my first year of college, over 25 years ago. I have some relationship to him because a friend of mine studied with him and I absorbed some of Hauerwas’ positions through him.
Hauerwas is unique. He grew up as a working class boy from Texas. He was clearly brilliant. But also seems to have fallen into his life in a number of ways that he was not consciously choosing. The title, Hannah’s Child, is a reference to his own mother’s desire for a child after infertility and her prayer modeled on the biblical Hannah and her dedication of Samuel to the Lord’s work. Hauerwas clearly sees his mother’s prayer and God guiding him into his life as a theologian.
Hauerwas started his teaching at Augusta College (in Rock Island, IL where I lived from 6th grade to high school graduation.) From there he spent 10 years at Notre Dame and then the rest of his career at Duke. That progression and the different characters of the schools and the people around him really did shape him and that comes out clearly in the book. (After the book came out he retired from Duke in 2013 and was appointed to a Chair of Theological Ethics at the University of Aberdeen.)