Last week, we told you about the home in Conroe with the image of Jesus in its foyer (or Jerry Garcia), depending on how you look at it). But now we have something even better than that: Jesus himself--or at least a guy claiming to be him--has moved into the Houston suburbs. Take that, Dallas!
Jesus, in this case, is Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, a former heroin addict who says angels — and Christ himself, which is a little confusing — visited him in 1973. Today, the Puerto Rican leads a group called Creciendo en Gracia, through which he spreads his teachings via DVDs and his own 24-hour-a-day satellite television channel. Just so you know, Miranda isn't shy about his messianic claim: "I am the second coming of Christ, that messiah that they’ve been waiting for," he told KHOU. (He was featured on the Today Show last month.)
So what does Miranda teach? Basically, it's a feel-good gospel that says they're no devil and no sin because Jesus — er, Miranda — took those nasty things away. And people seem to be eating it up, despite detractors who say Miranda is leading a cult: "Some people tell me, you know, that it looks like the devil. If that is true, I want to be with the devil because he makes me so happy," Claudia Salazar, a Creciendio en Gracia follower, told Channel 11. That's exactly what has made Miranda's message popular, theologian Lynn Mitchell said: "People think of the Christian church as being a downer, as always talking about people being sinners and so forth," Mitchell said, noting that Miranda's lessons are rather uplifting and joyous. And really, no matter how you look at it, sin is something of a downer, isn't it?
Miranda's group claims it has 100,000 members worldwide, with more than 400 affiliated businesses funneling between 20 and 80 percent of their profits into Creciendio en Gracia. Miranda's followers believe they're God's chosen people and call their kids the "super race," and they have a pretty bold goal: Earlier this year, Miranda told the Miami New Times that he's planning to "close down every church so the true church can begin. You could say I'm leading the greatest reformation that has ever happened." And now it's based in the Houston 'burbs.