may-june 2002, next-wave magazine
 
Buffy the Backside Slayer
by Andrew Jones
 

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 said that.

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 history.

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 against hemp.

"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 statement.

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.
 

Coke and Communion


 

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 colon.

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 Christ.
 

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 confession.

We are MacDonald's, we confess our sin,

This is our temple, where we eat our fast feasts,

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 stripes.

No Logo

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 friend.

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 made.

"We are ready to enjoy the cheapness of the prices, but not to grumble for the low wages of those who do Mac jobs.

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 family.

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 suspect.

"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 price.

But where were they born? And in what conditions? Doug is asking.

"Made in Italy" says the stamping under the tongue.

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 impatience.

"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, rather.

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:

Doug Pagitt and Andrew Jones
Andrew Jones http://tallskinnykiwi.blogspot.com
and his friend Doug Pagitt, left.
Doug and Shelley Pagitt Doug and Shelley Pagitt http://www.solomonsporch.com
 


Chris Seay http://www.ecclesiahouston.org
Emergent http://www.emergentvillage.com
 

Jonny Baker http://www.freshworship.org Jonny Baker


Steve Collins http://www.alternativeworship.org
 

What would Jesus wear?


 

What Would Jesus Wear?
http://www.btinternet.com/~smallritual/wwjw.html

Buffy the Backside Slayer is available from Lush. Americans with dimple-butts can buy it from http://lushcanada.com

 
Andrew Jones is an emerging culture story-teller writing from Prague, Czech Republic. You can catch up with him at his blog, http://tallskinnykiwi.blogspot.com.
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