He Calls Himself God
A Puerto Rican minister says Christ ‘integrated’ with him. Others call him a cult leader and a charlatan.
By Arian Campo-Flores
Feb. 5, 2007 issue – At first glance, the congregation gathered in a warehouse in Doral, Fla., seems like a typical Hispanic evangelical group. There’s the 10-piece band, the singing and swaying, the whooping and hollering.
The stereotyping is allowed I’m sure because the writer is
Hispanic as well, but that doesn’t make it any less unseemly.
But look a little more closely. There’s not a cross in sight.
Sadly, this is true of most “mega-churches” today as well…
The lectern is emblazoned with a near replica of the U.S. presidential seal, except that it reads in Spanish, government of god on earth. Off to the side stand three burly guys in dark suits with Secret Service-style earpieces. When a door by the stage opens, the guards leap into action. They surround the man with slicked-back hair who emerges and escort him to his seat.
If this picture weren’t so visually stunning in and of itself, I’d be tempted to crack wise about Rod Serling standing off to the side, quietly smoking a cigarette.
When the crowd spots him, it goes wild. People chant, “Lord! Lord! Lord!” It quickly becomes clear that they’re referring to him. “It’s Jesus Christ himself!” a preacher onstage announces. “Let’s welcome Jesus Christ Man!”
The writer hasn’t said how large the audience is; just that it is in a warehouse. How someone would have gotten me there to begin with I can’t imagine; but even when I was as estranged from God as I could make myself, this would have had me spinning on my heel and bolting for the door.
In the rapturous eyes of his flock, Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda is, in fact, the second coming of Christ. As the head of the Growing in Grace International Ministry, he presides over a sprawling organization that includes more than 300 congregations in two dozen countries, from Argentina to Australia. He counts more than 100,000 followers and claims to reach millions more through a 24-hour TV channel, a radio show and several Web sites. He is supported by the generosity of his devotees, who have launched some 450 businesses to pour cash into Growing in Grace’s coffers.
Even if the truth of these figures were only a tenth of what is stated here, it is still reason enough to make even the least faithful of God’s disciples weep.
Though de Jesus’ followers worship him, others denounce him as a charlatan. Everyone, however, agrees on one thing: his teachings are incendiary.
The first definition in the dictionary for incendiary says “Causing or capable of causing fire”, which would make him an incendiary agent. He and his followers may be basking n the glow of his flames now, but eventually…
(Isaiah 66:24) And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.
A native of Puerto Rico, de Jesus, 60, spent his youth drifting from the Roman Catholics to the Pentecostals to the Baptists. Then one night in 1973, he says, he awoke to a vision of two hulking men at his bedside who announced the arrival of the Lord, who, says de Jesus, “came to me and integrated with me.” In the early years after founding Growing in Grace in Miami in 1986, de Jesus didn’t claim to be Christ. Instead, he worked as a pastor spreading his doctrine: that under a new covenant with God, there is no sin and no Satan, and people are predestined to be saved.
Universalism of course! Universalism is the pathetic weak theology that teaches that everyone will be saved from eternal damnation or annihilation in hell, because God loves us too much to punish us. One of it’s false doctrines – apokatastasis – goes so far as to say that even Satan and his fallen angels will be saved!
This is the first time I have ever seen a Universilliest say that sin and satan do not even exist; which will be really frustrating for all the followers of “The New Church”, since they believe that God is so pampering that he allows them to choose to go to hell because they will be allowed to do whatever it is they enjoy doing there, no matter what it may be. We can thank the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (18th century) for inspiring that pile of nonsense. They actually manage to somehow not see the obvious contradiction in teaching that you should be good, and live for God so you can be saved…even though you will be saved anyway.
But as his following expanded, his claims did, too. In 1998, de Jesus avowed that he was the reincarnation of the Apostle Paul. Two years ago at Growing in Grace’s world convention in Venezuela, he declared himself Christ. And just last week, he called himself the Antichrist and revealed a “666” tattooed on his forearm. His explanation: that, as the second coming of Christ, he rejects the continued worship of Jesus of Nazareth.
So he was “integrated” with Christ 34 years ago, but he didn’t tell anybody! Instead he told them there was no sin, no satan, and no way they could not get into Heaven; so why would anyone ever listen to him a second time about anything at all since it was already a done deal? Nonsensical!! Yet, they kept coming, and 12 years later, he claimed to be Paul reincarnated (that whole concept of course being the Hindu and Buddhist tradition, rather than Christian). Still they kept coming back, and seemingly brought others along.
Seven years later, he tells them he is Jesus Christ. They of course think nothing of the fact that this self-professed divine being is either a liar (see his previous claims about himself), or is woefully confused about his own identity (paste last parenthetical contents here). Some god they’ve got for themselves! Sounds more like Shirley MacLaine with Alzheimers!!
Here it is 2 years later, his following still going strong, and now he re-re-recants of his previous claims of self, and sporting a new triple-6 tattoo, states that he is the Antichrist. Not A Antichrist (as is obvious!), but The Antichrist – and so far as the writer informs us: his followers… remain with him still.
(Jude 1:11) Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Korah.
All members of Growing in Grace are expected to tithe—which, along with offerings, yielded $1.4 million for headquarters last year. One of the first orders of business at every service is the collection of money (credit cards accepted). Those who have pledged their businesses to de Jesus donate much more. Alvaro Albarracín, a savvy, successful businessman given the title Entrepreneur of Entrepreneurs by de Jesus, is an example. Over the course of Albarracín’s 14 years in the church, he estimates that he’s given roughly $2.5 million. Such funds help underwrite a lavish lifestyle for de Jesus, including diamond-encrusted gold rings and fancy cars. But most of the money goes to his broadcast operation.
With numbers and attitudes like this, you have to wonder just how many prosperity teachers are studying and dissecting every aspect of this guy’s garbage, looking to cash in like they never have before.
Some observers call Growing in Grace a cult. De Jesus exerts total authority over the ministry. As a result, many have defected over the years, including Albarracín’s mother, Regina, who initially turned her son on to the church. “They brainwash you,” she says. Because of their disagreement, Regina and her son haven’t spoken in years (she now attends an evangelical church).
Considering how much money and power she has distanced herself from by “defecting”, we can surely attribute her awareness to the workings of the Holy Spirit, and hope that her current church is a rock-solid Bible-believing-teaching one.
“This is my only family,” Alvaro says of Growing in Grace. Such submission concerns Daniel Alvarez, a religious-studies instructor at Florida International University. “I hope [de Jesus] doesn’t metamorphose into Jim Jones,” he says, referring to the cult leader who led his followers to mass suicide in Guyana. “He has that kind of control over people.” (De Jesus responds that congregants are free to come and go as they please.)
While I understand what he is saying, Alvarez really needs to realize that de Jesus and his followers are already committing mass suicide in pursuing this blasphemous idolatry.
Over the past year, de Jesus has encouraged his followers to protest the alleged lies of other churches. In response, supporters have picketed Catholic congregations and burned religious materials, including crucifixes.
There is a certain logic to a cult (as “some observers call iGrowing In Grace” according to the writer of this article) protesting other religions in this way; not unlike the idiom that the best defense is a good offense. So, while they may be crazies, they aren’t necessarily stupid crazies.
“Our purpose is to open up people’s minds,” says de Jesus’ right-hand man, Carlos Cestero, who says that the group rejects violence. Jesus wouldn’t have it any other way—the question is whether de Jesus feels the same.
© 2007 Newsweek, Inc
The violent nature of burning objects in protest may be debatable, but the open sarcasm and derision of the writer of this article is not. It takes no large presumptive power to see a very real spirit of glee running through the entire piece on the part of the writer.
(1Peter 5:8) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (14) Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; (15) And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; – Ephesians 6:13-15