Doug Pagitt is shorter than
me. You need to know that before I tell you about him. Doug and
I have been working out at the health club --- he in Minneapolis and
me in Prague, Czech Republic. We have this competitive thing going
on. I don't want him to be much bigger than me. He already might . .
. I say MIGHT . . . be a little taller than me. Don't tell him I
To maintain health club etiquette, I need some
"inside" shoes. My wife has just alerted me to the fact that Czechs
wear inside shoes at the health club and I have been desecrating it
by bringing my "outside" shoes from the dirty, dog-piddly streets
into the club. Shame on me.
"SORRY OFFICERS", I plead, cold, handcuff
steel biting my wrists, "I HAD NO IDEA!"
My shoe size, being perfectly normal for
someone of my height, is a reasonable US 13 or Czech 47 1/2. I
decide to buy them at the famous Czech shoe shop called Bata.
There is a problem. Not possible. Wrong
number. Apparently my feet are too large. Bata does not make my
size. Bata does not love me nor my tribe. Bata thinks I am a freak
of nature. Someone whose feet should not exist. Condemned to walk on
the stubs of my ankles in a sulky penance for my crime. Bata has
shoes up to size 46. But not 47 1/2.
Perhaps I could squeeze them in. My feet would
eventually shrink, like the old Chinese women, who bandaged their
feet and created bulging stumps that grew in silent evolution up
their legs while they slept. I would need wider socks.
It is not possible, they say. There is
a problem. Big problem. Beyond a bribe. There is just no allowance
for 47 1/2 feet. This is why people defected. Why they slipped
through barbed wire to the West. It was to get some shoes that fit.
No other reason. This will be in the book I write on communist
So no Bata's for me. That's O. K. I really
like Pumas. I found a pair of Pumas at the Bata Superstore. Made
from hemp, a material four times stronger than cotton. The fabric of
old ship's sails and ropes. Durable enough to scare the hell out of
the Levi Strauss Company in San Francisco. Turn them into activists
"Jeans that never wear out? Unthinkable! How
would we make money if our jeans don't wear out."
I am eager to do my bit against global
commercialism by buying these Pumas. My fingers fondle the money
in my pocket. The sales lady comes out with her largest Hemp Pumas
but they were a thousand sizes too small. I don't even try them on.
They were made for old Chinese women with stumps.
Last week in London. I am just a few blocks
from Carnaby Street, the strip of 1960's funky shops made famous
again by Austin Powers. I have a meeting in 20 minutes and that
leaves me just enough time to buy a gift for my friends Doug and
Shelley Pagitt. Doug and Shelley take care of their bodies - see
their bodies as part of their spirituality. They drink special teas
to regulate the inner rhythms of their bodies. I would call it a
"Theology of the Body", a reintegration of something important that
those in the modern world left dangling outside their mission
The Lush Shop is a natural homemade soap
store - natural ingredients and no chemicals. Lush has
everything a post-evangelical needs for his new life. For Doug, I
buy the peppermint shampoo bar since his hair is starting to recede.
For Shelley, I buy a bar of exfoliating soap that is guaranteed to
get rid of butt-dimples. It's called "Buffy the Backslide Slayer". I
don't really know if she has dimples on her butt. I just thought the
name was funny. I want to see Doug's face when I give him the gifts.
Doug is my friend. Shelley might not be when she gets her gift.
Me? Well, I am a recovering fundamentalist
and my spiritual walk, for most of my journey, has been stuck in my
head. In many ways I am just catching up to a holistic way of loving
God with my mind and heart and soul and body. I guess the body part
has been lagging. And the diet. Especially the diet. Not to mention
the abuse of my body's skin as well as its colon that has been well
and truly clogged up by highly processed grains.
I have a theory about bread. Postmodern people
usually eat organic, whole-grain bread and modern people eat junky,
highly-processed white bread. Oversimplification, perhaps, but I
think it works. Doug eats whole grain. Shelley eats whole grain.
They have a postmodern diet. Shelley also works at an organic food
store making wheat grass shakes for customers. Their friends, Chris
and Lisa Seay, also drink wheat grass shakes. In fact, at the Whole
Life Expo in Houston, the Seays serve up wheat grass drinks to the
people there as a way of saying that God loves them as whole people,
body and all.
The Pagitts and the Seays, I should tell you,
have been involved in a movement to help young spiritual leaders
come to grips with the changing currents of the postmodern world.
And for older folk to understand the changes. This movement used to
be called Young Leaders. Now it is called Emergent. I have also been
a part of this movement, although I have lagged behind severely in
terms of diet and tuning into the suffocated distress calls of my
But thanks to Doug, I have started to amend
my wayward lifestyle. Develop my own theology of the body. I buy
some peppermint shampoo for myself. And some face cream. It's God's
body, not just mine. The abuse has to stop sometime. My repentance
after years of surfing the Pacific without protection. The colon
cleansing tea? Well, that can wait for another time. Baby steps,
Andrew. Baby steps!
My meeting with the English goes well. Their
journey is similar to ours and they are also looking at the impact
of their spirituality on global commercialism. Jonny Baker and Steve
Collins from Grace church are here. I was with them for a church
service a few months ago called the "No Logo" service. It was based
around the false worship of brand names and our true identity in
They had advertisements looping on TV's and
used a combination of brand name (Coke for communion) and no-name
products. We even did an exercise called "What Would Jesus Wear?" in
which we dressed up a cut out image of Jesus in clothes that we
thought he would choose. A liturgy was written for the service
called the Big Macfession:
"Christ of the Wilderness, hear our
We are MacDonald's, we confess our sin,
This is our temple, where we eat our
We are ready to enjoy a happy meal, but
not to eat a meal of sadness for injustice.
HUNGRY GOD - HAVE MERCY ON US
We are ready to throw away our
containers and to throw away our rainforests.
We are ready to eat Big Macs in any city
of the world, but not to mourn the death of cultures.
HUNGRY GOD - HAVE MERCY ON US"
Another church in England, The Warehouse, had
a similar service where people wearing brand-name clothing were not
allowed into the service until they had removed their swooshes and
Jonny pays for the coffee. I grab the Metro
back to Heathrow Airport. This stopover trip to England has cost me
less than 10 pounds. I get a buzz out of finding the cheapest ways
to do things. This has something to do with my calling (obsession?)
to save the world on a budget. This is also why I would naturally
buy the cheapest item without thinking about labor conditions or
business ethics. But that is all changing, now that I have Doug as a
Doug is a good man. A man who refuses to buy
anything made in Asian counties where human rights are abused in the
sweatshop factories by under-aged workers who should be in school.
Before he buys his shoes, he looks at the tag to see where it was
"We are ready to enjoy the cheapness of
the prices, but not to grumble for the low wages of those who do Mac
HUNGRY GOD - HAVE MERCY ON US"
I leave the Bata store in disgust and head
across the road to the Adidas shop. Its not Puma. But its close. Adi
Dassler's brother. Or so I heard. The two Dassler brothers set up
their factories on either side of the river. Adi built Adidas on one
side and the other brother, whatever his name was, put his Puma
factory on the other. So I guess I am keeping the money in the
But these shoes are also made in Asia. Perhaps
in factories that Doug would not approve of. Factories that would
make Doug angry, red in the face, veins bulging, charging through
the shoe factory with a whip, a gun, swinging nun-chucks, tipping
over sewing machines, leather everywhere, a holy crusade, divine
justice, Jesus in the Temple, shoes flying, bosses steaming, kids
cheering, little Oliver Twist's all of them, set free from tyranny,
running outside, dancing in the streets, while Doug holds the men in
suits up against the wall, eye level, beating them senseless, blood
splattering . . .
"We are ready for Ronald MacDonald and
his good causes, but not to change the world ourselves.
HUNGRY GOD - HAVE MERCY ON US"
"Abuser! Abuser!" Doug's accusations come
instantly and I brush them away. I really want to buy these shoes.
Doug, as I said, is a good man. He and his
wife have adopted two Mexican foster kids. Chico and Reuben. He
challenges his church, called "Solomons Porch", to live a similar
lifestlye. Doug does not buy sweatshop shoes.
"Andrew. Hope you're happy with your new
shoes. Dammit! How many 12 year olds worked 16 hour shifts to make
your cheap shoes, Andrew? Huh? You Lamer! Are your shoes
comfortable? Are YOU comfortable?"
I respond in my mind so nobody hears me
talking to myself.
Damn YOU, Doug Pagitt! I'm just trying NOT to
leave footprints by the bench press!
I put Doug out of my mind. But it is not
working. Every extra stripe, extra seam, is another hour of
underpaid work for someone who is cursing me as they pedal their
whirring, buzzing machines in the steamy, sultry, crowded, humid,
rat-infested factories . . . damn you Doug Pagitt!
Last week Doug cost me a lot of money. After
London, I went to St Louis, Missouri for a conference called Search
Party. Doug was there and we were talking about an opportunity I had
been given to speak to a large group of people and be paid well for
it. Unfortunately, the group inviting me was somewhat ethically
"Are you going to sell your soul?"
"Well, I was thinking about it."
"You gonna sell out?"
"At least I should give it some prayerful
consideration. Do you have a problem with me dancing in Babylon?"
"Well . . . actually . . . yes!"
Now here's the deal. I trust Doug on these
issues more than I trust myself. If he smells something funny - I
need to take note. That's what church is about - trusting each
other, submitting to each other. I decide to refuse the offer and
ditch the opportunity. And the money. One part of me says "Damn you
Doug Pagitt. You just cost me a lot of money!" The other part of me
says "Doug, thanks for being my friend."
"We are ready to eat fast food but not
to make slow relationships.
HUNGRY GOD - HAVE MERCY ON US"
Prague. The Adidas lady shows me some sports
slippers. My retirement from the tedium of laces. The Adidas logo is
engraved gently on the black leather, validating the ridiculous
But where were they born? And in what
conditions? Doug is asking.
"Made in Italy" says the stamping under the
An Italian sweatshop, perhaps? Do they have
such things? Doug would know. Maybe they do. But they cant be all
bad. And if they are bad, at least the workers can chug down some
Chianti at the end of the day. And have some mozzarella. God knows
there is no decent cheese in Asia.
But no. My shoes were not made in a sweatshop
in Italy. Oh no. No, no, no. They were made in the leather-smelling
basement of an Italian shoemaker. No wait. A craftsman. Yes, that's
it! A craftsman made my shoes. Just as his father taught him, And
his father before that.
I am now paying for my hand-crafted shoes.
Italian. Made with care by Bruno. . no . . Guiseppe . yes. . made by
Guiseppe, who has poor eyesight because his basement workshop is
dim, and his hands are calloused by a thousand pricks of his
well-worn needle. "Come up for dinner, Guiseppe. The spaghetti is
getting cold." His wife scolds him. But he loves his craft. Damn her
"In a few minutes, dear. I must not rush.
Someone needs this pair of sports slippers."
I am now on the 119 bus. Going home. Holding
my box of shoes. I am thinking of Guiseppe who is finishing off his
day, looking thoughtfully over the Mediterranean, pondering whatever
happened to those beautiful sports slippers that he made. And which
Gentleman Of Taste eventually purchased them. Invested in them,
I am also thinking of Doug who will come to
Prague to visit me this summer. And see my shoes. And notice
where they were made. And smile. I see him smiling. His wife is not
smiling. Shelley is not happy. She is wanting to talk to me about
something. About Buffy.
Cast, in order of appearance:
Buffy the Backside Slayer is available from
Lush. Americans with dimple-butts can buy it from