Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Have you seen him? The Jesus Guy hits the streets around Tampa Bay

Maybe you've seen him walking down the street and done a double-take: the Jesus Guy, convincingly bearded, Bibled, barefoot and robed.

Lately he has been moving through our quiet neighborhoods and high-crime streets, showing up at churches, making memorable cameos at funerals. The Jesus Guy has been to Ybor, east to Plant City, west to Clearwater. He has walked the rural roads and busy highways of Tampa Bay to occasional catcalls from passing cars.

"Dude, you walk on water?" someone might yell. Or "Save me!" Or the ever-popular, "I love you, Jesus!"

Have you noticed how sooner or later, all things remarkable and strange seem to make their way here?

So I wanted to meet this Jesus Guy. Serendipity! My sister saw him and gave him my number. It took a while for him to call, though, because why would Jesus have a cell phone? (Yes, my editor opines. Modern Jesus would be wired to as many people as possible. Also, he would drive a car, possibly a hybrid.)

But the Jesus Guy is simplicity in sackcloth, even if he has been in Time and the Washington Post over the years, even if there is a documentary about him.

We meet at a church, a place where people seem to take him in stride.

You want to be cynical about the Jesus Guy, to assume his is a shtick as slick as our recent visit from the Naked Cowboy in his tightie-whities and guitar. The Jesus Guy seems … nice. He says "How are you?" like he wants to know. He does not seem crazy. No, he says, he does not think he is Jesus.

His name is Carl, actually: Carl James Joseph, though he goes by the biblical "James." He is 49, Detroit-raised, a barefoot traveling preacher. He has done this in 14 countries and every state but Hawaii, Alaska and Montana. (A guy who spreads the Word walking would find folks awfully spread out in Montana.) He visits hospitals (in sandals). He seems to talk to anyone who wants to talk to him.

He doesn't carry money — safer that way — and only sometimes rides in cars. He keeps it simple, though he did get asked to the movies not long ago and saw Avatar. "That," the Jesus Guy says, "was impressive."

When someone really wants to help him, he asks to shower or launder his robe. His bare feet are so accustomed to outside he glides over wood chips in a parking lot like he's crossing a carpet.

Does he go hungry? "In fact, I'm a little overweight," he says, patting his robed belly. "People can be very generous, especially over the holidays." Others, not so much, like the person who once winged a soda bottle from a car and hit him in the chest.

"And it's amazing," he says. "It can be the very religious that can be the harshest." Which to me is not so amazing.

We chat about the brouhaha over at the Tampa City Council and the atheists who declined to say "under God" in the pledge. On this he espouses a gentle "When in Rome" philosophy.

Okay, what of Ybor City, the entertainment mecca? The Jesus Guy laughs. He has a nice laugh. Ybor, he says, is our "special child."

What does the Jesus Guy think of us? He didn't realize how big or diverse the place was. It's been at times, truth be told, chilly.

"There is a need to be here," the Jesus Guy says, and he can say that again.

Have you seen him? The Jesus Guy hits the streets around Tampa Bay 03/09/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 12:08am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Motorcycle passenger critically injured in crash on USF campus

    Accidents

    TAMPA — A crash that occurred Thursday night on the University of South Florida Tampa campus sent a motorcycle passenger to the hospital in critical condition.

  2. Forecast: Warm, humid weekend ahead of big cool-down for Tampa Bay

    Weather

    The weekend kicks off warm and dry on Friday across Tampa Bay with mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 80s.

  3. U.S.-backed Syrian force declares victory over Islamic State in Raqqa

    World

    BEIRUT — A U.S.-backed Syrian force declared victory over the Islamic State group in its former "capital" of Raqqa on Friday, declaring the northern Syrian city free of any extremist presence.

    This Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 frame grab made from drone video shows damaged buildings in Raqqa, Syria two days after Syrian Democratic Forces said that military operations to oust the Islamic State group have ended and that their fighters have taken full control of the city. [Associated Press]
  4. Florida education news: Lawsuits, lawyers, school board pay and more

    Blogs

    IN COURT: A former Hillsborough County school district top administrator sues the School Board and its chief of staff, alleging board member corruption and …

    Hillsborough School Board member Susan Valdes is the subject of several allegations in a former employee's scathing lawsuit.
  5. Clearwater eyes hiring new downtown director within two months

    CLEARWATER — Now that the city director tasked with revitalizing downtown has resigned after his arrest on a battery charge during Oktoberfest, City Manager Bill Horne said the goal is to not leave the position vacant long.

    Clearwater Assistant City Manager  Micah Maxwell will oversee downtown until the city hires a replacement for Seth Taylor.