A 60-year-old Evangelist Jose Louis De Jesus Miranda believes he is Christ reborn. “I am the second coming of Christ,” says the De Jesus who looks more like a banker. Tens of thousands of his followers believe he's the messiah. They are spread throughout the United States as well as Central and South America.
Devotees believe they cannot sin as long as they follow De Jesus. A Queens mother of three says as a Catholic she always felt guilty for something and is at peace with De Jesus' sin free religion. Claudia Salazar says, “Some people say he looks like the devil. If that is true, I say I want to be with the devil because he makes me happy.”
Born in Puerto Rico, De Jesus says he was a teenage heroin addict and thief before emigrating to the U.S. to preach Pentecostal gospel. It was 30 years ago, the divorced father of four says, Jesus Christ merged with him and revealed there is no sin or devil. Jesus had already died for our sins. De Jesus recalls, “At first I was scared but then I began to understand and began to teach things that had not been taught for 2,000 years.”
De Jesus began preaching his Apostle Paul gospel in a Miami area warehouse. Through his website, television and radio programs his Creciendo en Gracia or Growing with Grace movement has 300 churches or centers. In his Internet message, De Jesus promises his followers, “We are going to rule the world. It just takes time.” He predicts a world government run by him. “I will be president.”
Mainly Hispanic, his followers call his sermons liberating, entertaining and humorous. Sent by Satellite and DVD, ALL his followers hear only him or one other minister preach.
Off of Jamaica Avenue in Queens, the Creciendo en Gracia center has no pictures of Christ and only one two-inch cross. There are large photographs of De Jesus. Worshippers converse with his DVD image on the large screen TV.
And many donate generously to De Jesus' religious movement including whole businesses. William Salazar, a Queens contractor, happily donated $50,000 to the man he calls God. “Everything that I own is his because without him we wouldn't be here.”
De Jesus lives in an up scale suburb of Houston with his second wife. He monitors his satellite feeds from his laptop computer. He has the plasma TV, diamond rings and Rolex watches of many who preach wealth-is-good. But he insists most of the money goes to building his movement. He says, “I carry $100 in my wallet, credit cards I am like everyone else.”
But De Jesus has declared all other religions false. His people demonstrate against other evangelicals, and rip up catholic rosaries.
They lie to you, says a De Jesus follower.
“What disturbs me, “ says religion professor Daniel Alvarez, “is that he fits into the typical mold of a cult leader, total complete submission to his authority.” Authority of none less than Jesus Christ, who preaches while protected by a team of security guards.
De Jesus responds, “We are not violent, but we are real Christians.”