Jesus Christ's brother is a 48-year-old maintenance man from St. Louis whose common-law wife ran away from him 10 years ago taking their three children with her.
But that's background.
Neal Milton Thompson arrived in Colorado Springs last week, walking northeast along blue highways from the Four Corners, a startling double-take vision of Jesus Christ with long hair, full beard, dressed in a flowing white robe. He's on a three-month tour out West, a foot journey across America whose first leg was a 1999 summer tour of the East Coast. Thompson carries nothing but a 6-foot staff.
"I know God will take care of me and will provide food and shelter and laundromats and a place to stay," said Thompson, who emulates the savior and believes he is his brother. "I'm out there in the world; I don't have no money with me, no food, no extra clothes -- I depend on the kindness and generosity of people to help me."
He says his journey is inspired by the Scriptures, which instruct him to travel all four corners of the Earth. Of course, the world has since been proven round, and the United States hardly comprises its four corners, but Thompson says it's the closest he can come for right now. "I come in the image of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," he said. "I witness and let my light shine that Jesus Christ does live, as I live, He is the way, the truth and the life."
In smaller towns, Thompson is offered a home and bed and meals from strangers. While in Colorado Springs, he was befriended and given shelter by Donna Wolf, who, by the way, is Buddhist. "When I get to a big city, I stay in the homeless shelter, or go to churches and they always help me out, let me stay in someone's house or in the church or put me up in a motel," Thompson said.
"They see I'm out being about my Father's business."
Thompson doesn't have much education, he says, but his main theme is that people need to get back to being obedient to the Ten Commandments -- "not working on Sabbath Day or having abortions or having places of ill repute and other abominations to God." The government should also, he said, be stopped from trying to run God out of the United States.
Thompson has a theory -- which is admittedly still in its formative stage -- that Americans should be separated like tribes according to their religious beliefs and/or color, and everyone should live simply and without luxury like Native American Indians did several hundred years ago.
"We lost control of everything when money became God," he said.
For his Out West tour, Thompson caught a ride from St. Louis to Chicago, where he wanted to see what people thought of "The Man." Then he took the Greyhound to Arizona, where he began walking eight to 12 hours, heading approximately north, averaging 15 to 25 miles a day.
When he arrived in Colorado Springs a week ago Monday, Thompson went straight downtown, where in Acacia Park he proved an instant hit with the young people. "Some of them liked me, some of them didn't -- they said they were pagans and devil worshipers," he said. "Blessed are those who are young in spirit, they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven."
Invariably, Thompson made his way to Focus on the Family, where he asked to see "the guy in charge." But James Dobson wasn't available for a personal session with Jesus' brother, so Thompson said he instead met with two other Focus representatives for an hour. They told him he was welcome to walk around, but asked that he not witness or otherwise spread his personal message at Focus' international headquarters.
Thompson later participated in an official tour of the Christian ministry. Employees and visiting families loved his presence, he said, particularly in the Focus "chapelteria," where several children ran to sit on his lap and say their prayers and get their picture taken with the man they thought was Jesus.
Thompson left town shortly thereafter, hoofing it north along Highway 83 toward Denver, hoping to make it all the way up to the Canadian border. "That's my plan, but God could always change them."