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CNN Reports: Pastor with 666 tattoo claims to be divine

(editor:  I know this is an old story, from 2007 – BUT I just saw it and it made me laugh.)

February 16, 2007|By John Zarrella and Patrick Oppmann CNN

Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda says he is God, and his followers believe him.

The minister has the number 666 tattooed on his arm.

But Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda is not your typical minister. De Jesus, or “Daddy” as his thousands of followers call him, does not merely pray to God: He says he is God.

“The spirit that is in me is the same spirit that was in Jesus of Nazareth,” de Jesus says.

De Jesus’ claims of divinity have angered Christian leaders, who say he is a fake. Religious experts say he may be something much more dangerous, a cult leader who really believes he is God.

“He’s in their heads, he’s inside the heads of those people,” says Prof. Daniel Alvarez, a religion expert at Florida International University who has debated some of de Jesus’ followers.

“De Jesus speaks with a kind of conviction that makes me consider him more like David Koresh or Jim Jones.”

Is de Jesus really a cult leader like David Koresh, who died with more than 70 of his Branch Davidian followers in a fiery end to a standoff with federal authorities, or Jim Jones, the founder of the Peoples Temple who committed mass suicide with 900 followers in 1978?

De Jesus and his believers say their church — “Creciendo en Gracia,” Spanish for “Growing in grace” — is misunderstood. Followers of the movement say they have proof that their minister is divine and that their church will one day soon be a major faith in the world.

But even de Jesus concedes that he is an unlikely leader of a church that claims thousands of members in more than 30 countries.

De Jesus, 61, grew up poor in Puerto Rico. He says he served stints in prison there for petty theft and says he was a heroin addict.

De Jesus says he learned he was Jesus reincarnate when he was visited in a dream by angels.

“The prophets, they spoke about me. It took me time to learn that, but I am what they were expecting, what they have been expecting for 2,000 years,” de Jesus says.

The church that he began building 20 years ago in Miami resembles no other:

Followers have protested Christian churches in Miami and Latin America, disrupting services and smashing crosses and statues of Jesus.De Jesus preaches there is no devil and no sin. His followers, he says, literally can do no wrong in God’s eyes.The church calls itself the “Government of God on Earth” and uses a seal similar to the United States.

If Creciendo en Gracia is an atypical religious group, de Jesus also does not fit the mold of the average church leader. De Jesus flouts traditional vows of poverty.

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