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.