Into the light: Evangelical rehab and the seduction of new life

Teresa Gowan, Jack Atmore

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

5 Scopus citations


Purpose - Religious addiction treatment has experienced a rise both in its reach and exposure to attention from medical professionals. Largely autonomous conversion-based programs have received unprecedented support and legitimacy. We investigate "Victory Ministries"1 a large Midwestern evangelical rehab facility exploring the similarities and differences between formulations of addiction-as-disease found in "secular" rehab and the moral binaries that guide Victory's program. Methodology/approach - Qualitative case study: Interviews and ethnography. Findings - Working from in-depth interviews we explore the inner workings of Victory's curriculum and program design as it transmutes dominant therapeutic concepts and methods into its own Manichaean frame. Aided by superior financial resources and support of a tight-knit network of churches it delivers its most successful clients into a new life "redeemed by Christ." Social implications - Proponents of conversion-based service provision position religious institutions as the primary agents of willing compassion and generosity beyond the family compass stripping the rest of civil society of any claims to promote the greater good. In Victory's metaphor of "invisible war" a Manichaean vision is quite explicit. Every definition of recovery and reintegration in terms of conversion and submission to religious authority inherently suggests that substance use stems largely from immorality and that the unsaved in general are sinful and dangerous. By funding a conversion-based shadow welfare apparatus we argue the US government is intensifying the criminalization of poverty the steady downgrading of more inclusive institutions and ultimately the materialization of Victory's Manichaean vision in a polarized nation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCritical Perspectives on Addiction
EditorsJulie Netherland
Number of pages24
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012

Publication series

NameAdvances in Medical Sociology
ISSN (Print)1057-6290


  • Addiction treatment
  • Charitable choice
  • Criminalization of poverty
  • Faith-based services


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