Photos by Betsy Rothstein
When I moved to Portland this summer, I began to see Jesus. I don't mean in the spiritual sense, as in I found religion. I mean literally—I saw Jesus everywhere. I eyed him in peach pants in Northwest. I saw him strutting down Washington Street in acid-wash jeans. I found him parading in front of a theater on Broadway wearing a hooded purple robe, on a bicycle in Couch Park, and loitering outside Safeway. With shoulder-length, silky brown hair, golden highlights or facial hair—be it a goatee, mustache or beard—Jesus (and yes, I'm talking about the stereotypical Catholic-y Jesus, the kind that fought Santa on South Park) came in all shapes and sizes. In all the cities I've traveled and lived in the United States and abroad, I have never seen this many dudes resembling Jesus. It isn't lost on me that this happened in one of the least conventionally religious cities in America.
Consumed with the spirit (and afflicted with whiplash from all the Jesus sightings), I set forth to find and meet 12 such men in Portland. I began each morning with a whisper of a prayer: Please God, let me find Jesus today. Like most things in life, when you want to find something it's never there, and when you least expect it, it's everywhere.
Sometimes my afternoon prayers became riddled with frustration: "Goddammit, Jesus Christ, where the hell are you?"
I'd drive around the streets of Portland hunting for men with the Jesus look. Soon I consciously began not to look for him, because those days proved more fruitful in the Jesus department.
It wasn't an exact science. Some days he was elusive. One morning I was walking down Belmont when I followed the perfect wavy-haired Jesus into the Paradox Cafe. I grabbed a notebook and a camera and looked up to find him and—poof!—he had vanished. Had he been a vision?
I waited and waited and sipped herbal tea. There was no Second Coming.
The next day, I found him getting his hair trimmed at a chichi hair salon in the Pearl.
Most Jesuses I met exuded a calm, peaceful air. They were soulful, solemn and deeply kind. This was just as I'd expected, and it brought me joy to find them this way. Could it be that they'd taken on some aspect of Jesus' personality—an "everyone is welcome at the inn" sort of mentality?
But some Jesuses were, frankly, assholes.
I met Fat Blond Jesus in the Tao of Tea on Belmont. I had a feeling he wouldn't talk, and I was right. "People who look like this typically want to keep to themselves," he told me, handing back my card and giving me the brush-off. He wasn't even one of my favorites—he had stringy, long, blond locks, a plump physique and glasses.
Big Bushy Brown-Haired Jesus on a bike outside Muddy Waters Coffeehouse on Belmont said I couldn't interview him and then changed his mind. Outside, in a perfect mist of godly rain, he destroyed the interview by giving me only his first name (Eric) and telling me I couldn't snap his picture because it would be, like, "stealing his soul." I'm not into soul-stealing, so I let him go without argument. (That, and he exasperated me by saying things like, "You can't answer yes or no unless you know the question." Huh? And, "I guess the way I look at it, it's everybody else who has 'the look.' I don't have 'a look.'")
I also steered clear of Portland's homeless population, many of whom resemble Jesus.
One Sunday morning, one such scraggly-haired Jesus on Hawthorne paced back and forth outside Fresh Pot for two hours. At one point he dropped his jeans low enough to reveal part of his penis.
My breakfast companion cringed.
It was disturbing.
But there he was, proving to me once again that there are an obscene number of men in Portland who look just like Jesus.
Spotted: At Iolite Salon in the Pearl, getting his hair trimmed.
Day job: "Nothing right now. I'm a musician. I play the cello and piano, and I've done many vocal performances. I'm a singer."
Do you know you look like Jesus? "I don't really think about it. People just sort of bring it to my attention. Maybe once or twice a week [people tell me]."
Reason for the look: "To change it up, have some fun. I had shorter hair. I let it grow for two years. I never let it grow this long before. I've actually been called [Jesus] 20 times in the last couple of months."
Religious affiliation: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Church attendance: Weekly.
Favorite biblical passage or psalm: "I don't know where it is, but it's the one that says the first great commandment is to love the Lord as thyself, and the second one is love thy neighbor."
Miracles performed: "My voice."
Ever prayed to the real Jesus? Yes.
What does Jesus want for Christmas? "For everyone to get along, I guess."
Spotted: At Stumptown Coffee on Belmont, doing marijuana policy work.
Day job: Campaign coordinator to create a medical marijuana distribution system.
Reason for the look: " That's a good question. I never liked haircuts. That and I don't like to shave. I've been growing my hair for probably three years."
Church attendance: "No, never."
Favorite biblical passage or psalm: "No, not particularly. I have a horrible memory, I can't come up with one."
Miracles performed: "Maybe. I don't know. I probably have."
Ever prayed to the real Jesus? "I don't think there is a real Jesus."
Spotted: With a friend at Stumptown Coffee on Belmont, again.
Day job: Artist, drummer for local experimental pop band Nurses.
Do you know you look like Jesus? "Hmmm, I've never been told I looked like Jesus, except when maybe a friend of mine was tripping on mushrooms or something."
Reason for the look: " I wouldn't say there is one."
Religious affiliation: " I am not religious by any means. The older I get, the more I even question the physical existence of a supposed Yehoshua, but I definitely won't rule out the existence of any higher power."
Church attendance: " Never. Not anymore."
Favorite biblical passage or psalm: " I don't think I have one. I'm definitely not religious by any means."
Miracles performed: "No, none performed."
Ever prayed to the real Jesus? "When I was a kid, yeah."
What does Jesus want for Christmas? " He told me he just wants the day off, but everyone keeps calling him."
Spotted: At the Daily Cafe in the Pearl.
Day job: Footwear designer.
Do you know you look like Jesus? " Before Halloween it was suggested to me on a weekly basis that I go as Jesus, so I am aware of some resemblance."
Reason for the look: "Um, the longer hair, I've had it long a couple times in my life. I like having longer hair. I really like to keep a stubble, but that's irritating for my girlfriend so I grew it out. Saves money on haircuts."
Religious affiliation: " Not one that could be put into a box."
Church attendance: " Never."
Favorite biblical passage or psalm: None.
Miracles performed: " I got a job in Portland. It took me 2 1/2 years."
Ever prayed to the real Jesus? "At one point in my life I definitely did. It didn't work for me."
What does Jesus want for Christmas? World peace, good cheer.
New Age Jesus
Spotted: Off Belmont Street, carrying a white tea-light candle and chasing down a Buddhist street parade.
Day job: Student of Chinese medicine.
Do you know you look like Jesus? "I've gotten it a half a dozen times perhaps, but I don't look in the mirror that much, so it's hard to say."
Reason for the look: "I found it too vain to shave, but I've been thinking about it recently because it kind of gets in my mouth and it's ridiculous, but so what?"
Religious affiliation: " I don't bow my head before anyone but Creator, and Creator never gave me any organized religion."
Church attendance: "Not practically speaking. I follow the path that's in paths."
Favorite biblical passage or psalm: "I haven't memorized the book."
Miracles performed: " Yes, manifesting things through wishing. Probably not that dramatically."
Ever prayed to the real Jesus? "Sure, man."
What does Jesus want for Christmas? "I suppose some world peace, I don't know. I'd have to go into deep meditation for that one."
Spotted: Getting coffee at Muddy Waters Coffeehouse.
Day job: Drum builder, woodworker.
Reason for the look: "It started out different than it is now. I was in upstate New York and people are rather judgmental. It was my way of rebelling against ignorance. I don't know whether it was rebellion or an act. I guess part of it is that it's pretty easy to maintain. Do what you can to keep [the dreadlocks] clean."
Church attendance: "I did, but then I heard the pastor put down other religions. I stopped going the day after I heard the pastor be judgmental."
Favorite biblical passage or psalm: "Somewhere I heard that Jesus claimed, 'I am.' I couldn't tell you where it came from."
Miracles performed: "That's a tricky question. Sure, every day I try. Like self is the source of miracles."
Ever prayed to the real Jesus? "I don't believe Jesus would have asked that. I think Jesus was more man showing us what we're capable of doing."
Spotted: Outside the Bitter End bar on West Burnside smoking a cigarette, drinking coffee and waiting for the bus.
Day job: Student at Oregon College of Art and Craft.
Do you know you look like Jesus? "Yes. [People tell me] all the time. People have called me Jesus before. A couple of my friends wanted me to be Jesus for Halloween."
Reason for the look: "Laziness for the most part. I always wanted to have long hair. I don't think I've cut my hair in three or four years."
Religious affiliation: " If anything, I would be agnostic. I definitely believe in a higher power."
Church attendance: None.
Favorite biblical passage or psalm: None.
Miracles performed: " I make things out of mud."
Ever prayed to the real Jesus? " Yes."
What does Jesus want for Christmas? "Jesus wants a pair of crampons and an ice ax."
Name: Vish Vishvanath
Spotted: At Zupan's Market on West Burnside.
Day job: Photojournalist.
Do you know you look like Jesus? "I'm from West London, so I've not really looked in the mirror and thought, 'Hmm, outmoded and national Palestinian Jew,' but I can see where people are coming from. I usually take it as a compliment. I'm not easily offended—can't afford to be when I look like this, quite frankly."
Reason for the look: "This is the first time I've ever grown a beard. I'm on a world tour for my honeymoon. I've always had long hair."
Religious affiliation: " Religion is for weak-minded fools who cannot face reality. Invisible beings with voices, and judgments that happen after death. Hmm, right."
Church attendance: " No, not really. I'm not Christian."
Favorite biblical passage or psalm: "No, not at all."
Miracles performed: "I managed to rescue a roasted turkey dinner for 300 people. That was pretty miraculous. The turkeys had been kept in the freezer and were totally solid."
Ever prayed to the real Jesus? No.
What does Jesus want for Christmas? "Jesus would like to do a book signing and take the opportunity to underline all the points in each individual Bible that need extra attention paid to [them]."
Spotted: Having coffee with his Chinese medicine teacher at Stumptown Coffee on Belmont.
Day job: Chinese medicine student.
Do you know you look like Jesus? "Every once in a while someone says I look like Jesus, but I am not consciously aware of any resemblance."
Reason for the look: "I don't think there is a reason. I started growing my hair and just never cut it. I've had long hair for half my life, dreadlocks for 11 or 12 years."
Religious affiliation: " I don't belong to any organized religion."
Church attendance: " I don't attend a church."
Favorite biblical passage or psalm: " I don't."
Miracles performed: "I wake up each day and smile."
Ever prayed to the real Jesus? " I haven't."
What does Jesus want for Christmas? "Jesus would probably want a bumper sticker that says something like 'I honk for Jesus.'"
Spotted: Eating soup on a bench outside Whole Foods on Couch Street.
Day job: Artist, painter, photographer.
Reason for the look: "I got in a motorcycle accident and got hit from behind and landed on my face. They said I'd never grow hair. I'm just enjoying it. It's just a fun thing to do. I don't know how far it's going to go."
Church attendance: "Not anymore. It's kind of a choice you get to make whether your church is inside or outside the church."
Favorite biblical passage or psalm: "I kind of like 'Love is knowing.' I think it's in Corinthians, talking about how no matter how smart I am or wise, if I am without love I am nothing."
Miracles performed: "Once I did save somebody. [The person] had flipped over in a raft and was drowning. I gave mouth-to-mouth."
Ever prayed to the real Jesus? Yes.
Spotted: Waiting tables at BridgePort Brewery and Brewpub.
Day job: Server.
Do you know you look like Jesus? " Yes. [Someone mentions it] at least once a day. I was Jesus for Halloween."
Reason for the look: " I just feel comfortable having long hair. I just like the look. The hair is very comforting. Once I shaved and I felt like, 'Whoa, I feel naked!' I just feel better being shaggy and rough. I'm not wasting plastic on razors."
Miracles performed: "I put a smile on people's faces sometimes."
Religious affiliation: " No religious affiliation."
Church attendance: None.
Favorite biblical passage or psalm: "Not too into Christian kind of stuff."
Ever prayed to the real Jesus? "I would say yeah, because I was forced to as a kid."
What does Jesus want for Christmas? " Jesus would want people to actually take what he says and practice it."
Spotted: At Stumptown Coffee on Belmont, reading Upton Sinclair's Oil!
Day job: Computer programmer at a software company.
Do you know you look like Jesus? "I got glasses a few months ago and it curbed it, but lately, a lot. I get 'viking' more often, or 'homeless' is another popular one."
Reason for the look: "I broke up with a girlfriend in September 2008 and haven't cut any hair since. It was a pretty stereotypical cleansing of 'I'm free of this restrictive relationship.' The beard is split in two naturally. It's also because of male-pattern balding in my family. It's also cold in Portland. It's also curiosity of what I would look like completely naturally."
Religious affiliation: " I think the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is funny. I don't claim to be part of any religion."
Favorite biblical passage or psalm: "I like Deuteronomy 22:4—I think—about a horse's ejaculation. It's very comical."
Miracles performed: "I've been told, acts of fixing technology."
Ever prayed to the real Jesus? "Maybe when I was very little."
What does Jesus want for Christmas? "Probably the new PlayStation. He's probably really bored right now. Maybe a boxed set of zombie movies."
What? You don't think the dudes we profiled look anything like the son of God? You got a friend/neighbor/sister/local crazy person you know who looks waaaay more Christlike than our guys? Great! We'd love you to submit their photos to Willamette Week. Submit a photo to email@example.com between now and Jan. 1, 2010, and we'll add your favorite savior to our Portland Jesuses slide show below. Please note the name, age and any other biographical details you want included about your big J in the subject line of your email. And visit wweek.com/12jesuses to see whether your Christ made the cut. And readers, we admit we were unable to find Black Jesus in our lily-white town—if you find him, please snap his photo. Click the icon with four arrows at the bottom right of the slideshow to expand to full screen and read each Jesus' bio and comments.
Nailing Down the Real Jesus
"You Look Really Familiar…"
Where's Your Messiah Now?
Jesus, It's Jesus!
"Has Anyone Ever Told You You Look Like…?"