Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Papa Don’t Preach

Written by: on November 10, 2023

I am, was, will be, always have, sometimes am a “good girl” depending on your definition.  I grew up most of my life in North Dakota, where there was not a lot to get in trouble with, except the normal teenage stuff.  As an adult reflecting back, I always wondered why I didn’t do more experimental things that pushed boundaries?  Why did I hang out on the edge of the popular party group and never was tempted to go to the party?  I ask this, because I think knowing myself as I do now, I would’ve.  So the only answer I can come up with is somehow my parents instilled so much respect in them that I didn’t want to lost that respect in them or them for me.  I am the oldest daughter of a pastor.  My dad was a pastor’s kid as well and from what I heard, he definitely fit the “wild pastor kid” title.  I remember resenting my dad’s occupation as much as I respected him.  There were other kids in my church who got caught at parties and watching the parents broken talking to my dad was heartbreaking, shaming, etc.?  I didn’t want my parents judged the way these other parents felt judged and shamed by their child’s actions.

What I was left with is MTV and music.  My dad “programmed” MTV off of the channels (as if I didn’t know how to type the number 3 and 0!  I still remember what channel it was.  Madonna was and is my girl.  She was fascinating and interesting and rebellious, everything I considered cool.  In Vincent Millers Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture, he notes that Madonna while talking about religion by quoting David Lyon who said “Religions that lend themselves to visual intensity and symbolism have greater appeal in consumer culture”, “Much has been written concerning the religious vision and gender politics of Madonna videos”.[1]  Miller goes on to bring up her video “like a prayer” and I remember this video and watching it over and over trying to sort out in my young Christian mind if I should like this song.  The song she sang, however, that spoke to me was “Papa don’t Preach” of course.  Madonna had a very complicated relationship with the church and her childhood and utilized music to “express yourself” I mean herself.  Madonna was trying to utilize her pain, her past, her platform to affect change, to bring female empowerment and at the same time disrespected ritual while still trying to speak truth back into the marginalization of women in the church.

Jason Clark notes “Our liturgies are the rituals that form identity around visions of the good life, and those ‘story-laden’ practices are “absorbed into our imagination,” such that:” quoting James K. A. Smith’s “Defined by Our Loves: A Liturgical Anthropology”[2]

Liturgies are compressed, repeated, performed narratives that, over time, conscript us into the story they “tell” by showing, by performing. Such orientating narratives are not explicitly “told” in a “once-upon-a-time” discursive mode – as if the body politic invites us to passively sit at the proverbial librarian’s feet for “story time” while she walks us through a picture-book narration. No, these stories are more like dramas that are enacted and performed.

Clark very eloquently states how rituals inform us by stimulating the imagination.  I guess some question all of this leaves me with, as I continue to wrestle through what I feel the author is trying to express in how our consumeristic culture has “changed” the way religion is understood.  I guess I struggle a little with this, as not all of religion has it right.  Many, many have been oppressed and abused for the sake of how ritual and religion is understood.  My question is “is all consumerism bad for religion?”.  Having more women theologians write and study theology has changed how we understand religion, doesn’t Madonna, though provocative, move this forward a bit faster?  I think Austin Kleon says it best “You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose (“consume”?) to let in your life. You are the sum of your influences.  The German writer Goethe said, “We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”.”[3]  Consuming seems to be inevitable, we just have to be discerning of what we consume, ya?

[1] Miller, Vincent J. “Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture” (New York, Bloombury, 2003). 7

[2] Clark, Jason Paul, “Evangelicalism and Capitalism: A Reparative Account and Diagnosis of Pathogeneses in the Relationship” (2018). 225

[3] Kleon, Austin. “Steal like an Artist”. (New York, Workman Publishing Company, 2022) 11.

About the Author


Jana Dluehosh

Jana serves as a Spiritual Care Supervisor for Signature Hospice in Portland, OR. She chairs the corporate Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging committee as well as presents and consults with chronically ill patients on addressing Quality of Life versus and alongside Medical treatment. She has trained as a World Religions and Enneagram Spiritual Director through an Anam Cara apprenticeship through the Sacred Art of Living center in Bend, OR. Jana utilizes a Celtic Spirituality approach toward life as a way to find common ground with diverse populations and faith traditions. She has mentored nursing students for several years at the University of Portland in a class called Theological Perspectives on Suffering and Death, and has taught in the Graduate Counseling program at Portland Seminary in the Trauma Certificate program on Grief.

9 responses to “Papa Don’t Preach”

  1. mm Russell Chun says:

    Hi Jana,

    I too have a fondness for the “Material Girl” she was Iconic for a generation. For me it was Cher (she with 3 facelifts).

    On Consumerism and its cousin Capitalism, I think I hear a whisper, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”

    Yesterday I bought two winter kits for my daughters cars (we are in Colorado Springs). My justification was safety, my delight was in how easy it was.

    If Satan means consumerism for evil, then I believe that God can change it for good. (the old Joseph story).

    Yes, let us be aware, but I sort of get how we need to meet the consumer society where they are. Lure them in with consumer bait and ZAP them with unconditional love!

    Works all the time!


    • mm Jana Dluehosh says:

      I always struggle with the “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” It’s so hard because there is nothing more that I believe then God Loves us and when he created the world has said it was good. Isn’t our job to help redeem the world and not condemn it? I love your “zap” effect of unconditional love.

  2. Adam Harris says:

    Appreciate your posts! The last part of it reminded me of the saying, “You are what you eat.” What we consume most certainly shapes who we are, what we care about, and how we live, which goes along with what you quote:

    “The German writer Goethe said, ‘We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.’ Consuming seems to be inevitable, we just have to be discerning of what we consume, ya?”

    Miller talked about the Eucharist, which made me think about what we are “consuming” in religion and the difference between “taking in Christ’s spirit” and “taking in religious ideals and traditions” (some healthy, some not). I think there is a big difference! One produces one thing in me and one produces something very different. Some feel religious spaces hinder the love of Christ operating in the world, while others find these spaces expand it for them. To play off what you quoted, we should “love” to love, I guess, and consume the things that create that in us! This idea causes me to think about the Eucharist in a whole new light. Just thinking out loud and riffing off your posts. Good stuff!

    • mm Jana Dluehosh says:

      Love to “love”. I Love that! Choosing to love what we love. Honestly, I think Love is the key to all of it. Wonder how to do a stakeholder workshop on how to help people to Love.

  3. Cathy Glei says:

    Madonna was and is my girl too. I think discernment is key too. As leaders, there is an influence factor that is at play in the decisions we make or don’t make. Leaders have followers. As Christian leaders, desiring to love God and love others better, how do we consider our decisions in the context of a greater common good/community?

    • mm Jana Dluehosh says:

      I think about the consuming of WWJD bracelets, and think it could be something like it. Asking ourselves and those we lead, what would Love do? What is the loving choice? I think what is hard, is sometimes the hardest thing is when the loving thing is the hard thing to do.

  4. mm Pam Lau says:

    Jana, Thanks for writing about your reflections on Madonna’s songs. She could really get inside our heads, yes? I am thinking about your question:

    My question is “is all consumerism bad for religion?”

    My first thought is, “Of course not! We would all be neutral, unattached, stoics if we didn’t have a desire to consume or a vision to follow.”

    But then I think about Vincent Miller’s argument and wonder if I am convinced of everything he wrote. What were your thoughts on his last chapter? His Solutions?

    • mm Jana Dluehosh says:

      Thanks Pam, the more I think about Madonna’s songs, or at least early songs, like material girl, papa don’t preach, just like a prayer, she is using her platform to speak into a culture that doesn’t want to listen or know it needs to listen. I think Miller’s voice on Agency is going somewhere, I think the biggest thing we can all do is hand over agency, empower others to think for themselves, to learn what they don’t know they need to learn. I’m not too sure with everything either, but I do appreciate he is trying to empower.

  5. mm Dinka Utomo says:

    Hi Jana! Thanks for your inspiring story.
    You have a very interesting past story. I found out in the story how your life as a pastor’s daughter was made so strictly that it left only music and MTV, but not parties. I am very inspired by the way you relate your story to these two main reading materials of ours. From there, you critically question whether consumer culture is completely wrong. I can understand that question because it is also what may come to the mind of many people when they see the constant criticism leveled at consumer culture. I’m curious how you relate your critical question to Miller’s opinion that what is dangerous is the passion behind the inexhaustible consumer culture that gives rise to opportunities for exploitation. Do you think human desires need to be given the widest possible space or do they need to be controlled?

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