Saturday, February 17, 2007

Another Cult Religion founded in Hialeah, Florida! Yee-Haw and Hallelujah!

Following the recent publicity (see comments) concerning the "Growing In Grace Church" whose leader, José Luis De Jesús Miranda, proclaims that he is Jesus Christ and started a movement among his worldwide congregation to tattoo themselves with the "sign of the Antichrist," i.e., the numbers 666, a spin-off cult calling themselves "Church of the Groovy Dude," held their first public worship service last night beneath a "Big Daddy's Liquors" sign at 1550 W. 84th Street in Hialeah.

"José Luis De Jesús Miranda is not "Big Daddy," a follower explained while genuflecting towards the electric sign high above MVB's resident archaeologist Bobby Bermudez. Bobby happens to live in Hialeah and, because he was making a "rum run" to his local liquor store to mix up a batch of mojitos, inadvertently became the first reporter to score an interview with members of the latest cult religion to spring out of Hialeah, once a redneck haven of country music lovers, now a predominantly Spanish speaking population of south and central American immigrants and Cuban exiles on the far flung northwest border of Miami. "Joe 'Big Daddy' Flanigan is," the worshiper continued.

"Yeah, like everyone knows that," Bobby responded with a roll of his eyes. Flanigan's restaurants and its Big Daddy's Liquors have been part of the south Florida landscape since the late 1950's.

"No, man, this guy Miranda can't make up his mind who he is. At one time he was telling everybody he's the reincarnation of the Apostle Paul. Then he was 'The Other,' a spiritual superbeing who would pave the way for Christ's Second Coming. Three years ago he proclaimed he was Jesus Christ Himself! This year he's the Antichrist. That's why he's got everybody tattooing themselves with the numbers 666."

"That don't make any sense. That's supposed to be the last thing a true Christian wants branded on him."

"Not if you're a member of the "Growing In Grace Church." According to Miranda, Christ's death on the cross killed Satan and sin and God's chosen have already been saved. True believers are lining up on 5th Street in SoBe right now getting tattooed to show their loyalty to Miranda-- oh, excuse me, the Antichrist."

"Don't you mean 'Big Daddy'!" someone shouted.

"'Big Daddy'?" Bobby asked.

"Yeah, his followers are calling him Big Daddy! There's only one 'Big Daddy' and that's Joe Flanigan!"

"At least Joe Flanigan was consistent," a Groovy Dude interjected.

"What do you mean?" Bobby asked.

"No matter what Flanigan's you go to, the baby back's are the best in the universe. If that ain't a sign that he was God on Earth, I don't know what is."

"Hallelujah!" the group shouted.

"To show our contempt of Miranda's contempt of Christianity and our new religion 'Groovy Dudeism,' we appropriated his lame 666 BS and flipped it on its head," the Groovy Dudeist grinned.

"What are you talkin' about?" Bobby asked.

The guy rolled up the sleeve on his right arm and showed Bobby a fresh tattoo. "It's our very own sacred symbol."

"But it doesn't look any different than Miranda's 666 nonsense," Bobby replied.

"Not if you look at it like this!" the man said as he turned his arm slowly around.

With the accompanying sounds of heavenly harps there, before Bobby's eyes, appeared on the man's arm a sparkling, shimmering, arcing neon light outlining Flanigan's famous early bird dinner price: $9.99 complete with dollar sign and decimal point.

"Hell," the Groovy Dudeite rejoiced, "that even trumps turning water into wine!"

It was an epiphany for Bobby and he couldn't agree more. That night he became a member of "The Church of the Groovy Dude" and, after inviting its members over to his house for some mojitos, was baptized into the new faith not by water but with Bacardi's best.

UpDate (6/27/07): A Miami-Dade circuit judge flags José Luis De Jesús Miranda for using charitable donations to his ministry for personal expenses -- paying $144,000 a year in alimony to his first wife and buying property in his and his relatives' names.

UpDate (8/23/08): What a God! Or AntiChrist. It appears De Jesús Miranda is, as the Miami Herald reports today, "on the lam," a no-show at his divorce proceedings where soon-to-be-ex-wife Josefina de Jesus Torres alleges abuse, abandonment and infidelity. God/AntiChrist De Jesús Miranda, the leader of some 300 churches in 30 countries, calls in once in a while to his "Entreprenuer of Entreprenuers," Alvaro Albarracin, a true believer who gave the church $1.2 million. According to Albarracin, Heaven-- or wherever De Jesús Miranda is calling from-- is listed as an "unknown number" on his cell phone. We'd be much more impressed if "God's" great booming disembodied voice showed up in court to defend Himself.


Verticus S. Erectus said...

For 'Antichrist' followers, fulfillment, not fearMembers of Growing in Grace, a controversial Doral church, followed the lead of their spiritual leader, getting branded with `666.'
Surrounded by a mob of news cameras, a group of smiling, well-dressed church members crowded into a South Beach storefront parlor on a recent muggy evening and got matching tattoos of their prophet's symbol: 666.

Members of Growing in Grace, a controversial religious sect headquartered in Doral, said they were following the example of their leader, José Luis De Jesús Miranda, who has claimed to be Jesus and recently declared himself the Antichrist.

Critics have called De Jesús a cult leader who manipulates followers. Church members say he has brought them happiness and spiritual fulfillment.

''This is backing up what I truly believe,'' said Alvaro Albarracin, 38, who heads a film production company and joined the church more than a decade ago. He showed a bandage that covered the freshly tattooed ''666'' on his forearm. ``It's like a brand. It's like a sign.''

It's a sign most Christians would shun, because for centuries the numbers have been associated with Satan. But for the 30 or so church members who branded themselves with 666 and SSS -- the initials of De Jesús' motto, ''salvo siempre salvo,'' or ''saved always saved'' -- it's a mark of their absolute faith in De Jesús.

Church members say the symbol doesn't connect them to Satan but rather to De Jesús' claim that he has replaced Christ's teachings with a new gospel.

Scholars and critics of the movement say the tattoos offer frightening evidence of the influence De Jesús commands over his followers.

''What is he going to do next to call attention to himself?'' asked Daniel Alvarez, an instructor in the department of religious studies at Florida International University who has studied the movement. ``This means that his control over people is so great that no matter what he says to them, they'll follow him.''

De Jesús was traveling in Puerto Rico this week and was not available to comment, said a church spokeswoman.


At the tattoo parlor, one woman wore a T-shirt with De Jesús' picture and the phrase ''The Lord Arrived'' in Spanish. Others wore shirts and baseball caps marked with 666. Spanish rap music blared from a stereo in the back. News cameras circled the tattoo chair as artist Jessica Segatto, wearing pink rubber gloves and a huge silver cross, carefully inked 666 on church members' ankles, forearms, backs and one member's neck. Some members said they decided to attend Tuesday night's tattooing session -- which was prompted by a church announcement the previous week -- to prove their commitment to De Jesús' vision. Others said they hoped the symbol would provoke questions about the movement.

''I figured if I have it on my leg, people are going to notice it, 666, and they're going to ask,'' said church member and spokeswoman Axel Poessy.

De Jesús -- who preaches that sin and the devil were destroyed when Jesus died on the cross and that God's chosen already have been saved -- has built a massive movement around his claim to divinity. Followers call him ''Daddy'' and ''God'' and lavish him with $5,000 Rolexes and sometimes 40 percent or more of their salaries.


Christian leaders have denounced De Jesús, saying he distorts the Bible. The Rev. Julio Perez of Nueva Esperanza, a faith-based community group in Hialeah, said De Jesús was promoting himself rather than helping members of his church. ''What he's doing is trying to create his own sect,'' he said.

De Jesús had just a few hundred followers when he launched his church in a Hialeah warehouse about 20 years ago. Today, he commands a global movement from his Doral headquarters that boasts 335 education centers, 200 pastors, 287 radio programs and a 24-hour Spanish-language TV network that's available to two million homes -- including by special request from some U.S. cable companies. Only De Jesús and his right hand man, Carlos Cestero, are authorized to preach.

In his sermons, De Jesús emphasizes wealth and success as a sign of God's favor. Many of his members are business owners who give a percentage of their corporate profits to De Jesús, said Alvaro Albarracin, who oversees corporate donations to the church and holds the title ''entrepreneur of entrepreneurs.'' Albarracin, who runs the film production company MiamiLa Entertainment, said he gave 20 percent of his profit to the movement when he sold his Web-hosting company, Dialtone, for more than $16 million in 2001.

Martita Roca, 25, a South Florida singer and actress from Guatemala, said she sometimes gives 40 percent of her salary to Growing in Grace. Giving a piece of her flesh by getting a tattoo was another way to prove her commitment, she said.

''For all of those people who pray for us to come out of this movement, this shows that this is it, there's no going back,'' Roca said of her tattoos. ``This is to make sure that everyone relates me to that vision.''

Luz Fuentes, 51, a former Catholic who joined Growing in Grace in 1990, said she and her brother give Growing in Grace up to 50 percent of profits from their Hallandale mortgage company, Apos Mortgage. ''Apos'' is short for ''apostle,'' one of De Jesús' monikers. De Jesús is listed on the company's website as its CEO.


''Antichrist'' is the latest in a string of titles De Jesús has bestowed on himself.

In 1988, De Jesús announced he was the reincarnation of the Apostle Paul. In 1999, he dubbed himself ''the Other,'' a spiritual superbeing who would pave the way for Christ's second coming. In 2004, he proclaimed himself to be Jesus Christ. That claim caused some prominent members to defect from the movement -- including De Jesús' first wife, Nydia, and his son Jose Luis Jr., who started his own church in Puerto Rico.

Last month, during a packed worship service at the church, De Jesús took off his coat and revealed the numbers 666 on his forearm.

''This is a congregation of Antichrists,'' De Jesús said, drawing whistles and cheers.

The number 666 appears in the Book of Revelation, a portion of the New Testament that details the prophet John's apocalyptic vision of the rise of the Antichrist, the tribulation and Christ's return. In Revelation, a horned beast appears on earth and requires everyone to get his mark -- 666 -- on the right hand or forehead.

Experts on new religious movements say De Jesús' opposition to other religions, and his claim to be the only legitimate spiritual authority, resemble the teachings of some cults.

''It's clearly a personality-driven group,'' said Rick Ross, an anti-cult consultant based in New Jersey. ``It is defined by the claims of De Jesús Miranda.''

Nick Woodbury, director of the evangelical group Christ for Miami, said most mainstream Christians would reject Growing in Grace's teachings as unbiblical.

''In the Christian evangelical sector, we would consider them a sect,'' said Woodbury, who has served as a missionary in Colombia with the Mimai-based group Latin America Mission. ``They take the Bible, but their interpretation is very warped.''

De Jesús' followers have lashed out against organized Christianity because they believe their prophet holds the true gospel, they say. His adherents have disrupted Catholic processions on Good Friday and protested outside an evangelical church gathering in Miami's Tropical Park. Last July, they tore up literature published by the Jehovah's Witnesses and other Christian movements during a march in downtown Miami.

Scholars who are concerned about the movement's growth say they hope De Jesús' latest claim will insert doubt into the mind of some members.

'The symbol of the Antichrist is so negative, the only good thing that will come out of this is that people will say, `Hold on, this man is going off the deep end,' '' FIU's Alvarez said.

Rick said...


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Dayngr said...

I posted about this freak too - twice even!

Verticus S. Erectus said...

And well you should since you live in Hialeah.

Judah said...

The leader of this cult is a false prophet.

All people have been told by the Father God in Heaven not to mark their flesh, nor to cut their flesh. All people have also been told in the Book of Revelations not to allow the Mark of the Beast upon their flesh, and that anyone that dies with the Mark of the Beast upon their flesh will be cast into the Lake of Fire.

The people within this cult need to repent, ask for forgiveness, and to have a medical doctor to remove the Mark of the Beast tattoo from their skin.

If the followers of this false prophet are truly seeking the Father God in heaven, then they will find Him.