In 1973, Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda awoke one night and saw two hulking men at his bedside. They announced to him the arrival of the Lord and then Christ not only came, he "integrated" with de Jesus.
As a young man, de Jesus explored different Christian faiths from Catholicism to Pentecostal to Baptists. A dozen plus years following his "integration" with the Lord, he founded the Growing with Grace ministry in 1986 in Miami. As pastor in his ministry, he preached that people are predestined to be saved and that there is no sin or Satan.
Through the years, as his ministry grew and the numbers of his following inflated, so did de Jesus' claims as to who he was. In 1998, he claimed he was the reincarnation of Apostle Paul. A couple of years later at his ministry's world convention, he "promoted" himself to the rank of Christ. Now de Jesus claims he is the Antichrist and unveiled a "666" tattooed on his forearm. His alleged reason for this new claim is that as the second coming of Christ, he must reject the "continued worship of Jesus of Nazareth."
Now 60 years old, de Jesus presides over a sprawling money-making enterprise--uh, ministry--which incorporates over 300 congregations in countries from Argentina to Australia. He has over 100,000 followers though he claims he reaches millions more through his web sites, a radio show and a 24-hour TV station. His followers have poured millions into his pockets, either through personal donations or through businesses they started up to raise money for the ministry.
His devotees worship him, chanting "Lord! Lord! Lord!" upon his appearance. His entrance is announced as "Let's welcome Jesus Christ Man!" He is accompanied by bodyguards, sports a gold and diamond ring on his finger and drives expensive automobiles. Though he leads a lavish lifestyle, allegedly most of the money generated by his ministry and "subsidiaries" goes into running the broadcast operation.
Is de Jesus the real deal or just another delusional power monger under the guise of religion? Is his ministry a real ministry or a cult?
Consider that de Jesus exerts total control over the ministry in a manner that many, including former followers, claim constitutes brainwashing. When this man speaks, his followers jump and do.
Members of this ministry must tithe and one of the first things on the agenda at every service is the collection of money. If you do not happen to have cash on hand, credit cards are perfectly acceptable. Some members have even pledged over their businesses to de Jesus.
At the urging of de Jesus, followers of the ministry have picketed Catholic congregations and burned religious symbols and materials, including crucifixes, of other Christian religions. Supposedly this protesting of the "lies" of other churches is a way of opening up people's minds. In other words, only de Jesus and the Growing in Grace ministry have a monopoly on the truth.
Growing in Grace or should that be Growing in Disgrace. Perhaps this ministry should get together with Scientology and someone should introduce de Jesus with Tom Cruise, if they have not already met.