Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Wife seeks divorce from 'Jesus Christ reborn'
Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda says he is the second coming of Jesus Christ; his wife wants a divorce
Where was the money coming from?

That was one of many questions that crossed my mind when the CNN Miami Bureau first began working on a story over a year ago on a religious group -- critics call it a cult -- that had sprung up in a working class area of Miami.

The group "Growing in Grace" is the kind of organization that causes one to ask questions. Its leader is a charismatic minister named Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda who preaches that he is the second coming of Jesus Christ.

De Jesus' followers passionately believe that he is God. They stage protests outside other religions churches, believe there is no sin and give generously to their leader. (Read why de Jesus thinks his church is misunderstood)

That brings us back to the money. The church is primarily made up of working class Latino immigrants who manage to give 10 percent of their earnings to the church. Other wealthier followers give more. Much more. Church records show that church members have given donations in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

De Jesus says he is Jesus Christ reborn, but he does not seem very interested in any vow of poverty. He wears diamond encrusted Rolexes, drives in luxury cars and is followed by a team of bodyguards, all offerings from his followers. "This is all free," de Jesus says with a wide smile. "Gifts that they give me. I can't reject that."

That generosity may have de Jesus in hot water. The self-proclaimed messiah is divorcing his wife of five years and records coming out in a Miami courtroom paint a picture of a church leader's life of luxury.

According to his wife's attorney and court records:

  • De Jesus lost $46,846.36 gambling at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida last year.

  • Jo-Ann De Jesus, the preacher's daughter and the church treasurer, testified that de Jesus' first wife receives $12,000 in monthly alimony paid for by the church.

  • Properties were purchased in South Florida, Texas and Colombia with church funds but are titled to De Jesus or his daughter Jo-Ann.

De Jesus would not talk to CNN about our story on his finances and divorce. But a church official said that they have done nothing wrong and are cooperating with a federal investigation that resulted from his bitter divorce case.

Whatever the result of the investigation it may not hurt de Jesus' standing with his flock.

Church members we spoke with said they will continue to donate and that they are happy if de Jesus lives well.

-- By Patrick Oppmann, CNN Producer
Posted By CNN: 3:23 PM ET
Change the names, change the places, I've heard similar stories so many times before. Have you read about Shabbetai Tzevi, a false Jewish messiah who lived in the 17th century? It makes me wonder what it is about some people's lives that makes them so gullible. Maybe the hope these hucksters offer them just takes away the pain.
Posted By Barbara, Culver City, CA : 3:46 PM ET
It is so sad to see people who fall so easily for charismatic (crazy) leaders who call themselves the Messiah. It is clear that there are masses of people out there who are searching for spiritual intervention and guidance in their lives. It is just so sad that there are crooks who are so willing to sell these people a dream and take their money all at the same time.

I hope that the people who are apart of this religious group do not end up dead. It always seems to end that way. Look at Jonestown, Waco, and Heaven's Gate. I had a friend that was a religious group here in Atlanta, where the self-proclaimed messiah was sentenced to a long prison term for having sex with minors and taking money. It was called the Newabian (Phonetic spelling) Nation. It took a long time for her to get straight again, but she is not all that trustful of religion.

Money, sex, death, and absolutist power, all seem to accompany these groups. I hope that some of the members of the group will see the light. I hope that the divorce precedings and money holdings will jolt some into reality. Others may be lost forever.
Posted By Madeliene Bolden, Atlanta, Georgia : 3:53 PM ET
Growing in Grace has churches in 24 countries (mostly in Latin America)in a setup where much of the money goes right back to Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda himself. Any religious group with this structure is doomed from the start, regardless of other issues.

Theologically, his followers call him Jesus Christ, just like the New Testament Jesus. Unfortunately, this group not only holds to this anti-Christian belief, but attempts to also interrupt other churches, even calling themselves a super race.

According to the Miami Times, they've held at least 40 protests in over a dozen countries. This group is theologically non-Christian, claims racial superiority, has a dangerous financial structure, and does not hold to religious freedom.

You're right on to try to keep this group honest.
Posted By Dillon Burroughs : 4:04 PM ET
The sad thing is that people would be so gullible and longing for more purpose and meaning out of life, that they would so naively accept the false teachings of Jose Luis. In the article that Mr. Zarrella and Mr. Oppmann wrote, Jose Luis is quoted as saying "The spirit that is in me is the same spirit that was in Jesus of Nazareth." But that claim is not exclusive to him, when a Christian accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit of God comes to dwell within our hearts. This is evident in John 14:26, where it says, "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." And in John 20: 22, where the Bible says, that Jesus, "breathed on them [the disciples] and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'."
As for the "666" tattoos and the lavish and eccentric life-style that this man encourages, that is completely against any Biblically based teaching. Anyone,whether they are Lutheran, Catholic, Baptist, Nazarene, etc. would admit that the absurd claims of this man are ones of a ludicrous impostor, because no minister who claims to live for God and the teachings of the Lord, would be wearing a flashy "diamond-encrusted Rolex" and driving BMW's and Lexus cars; he would be selling those Rolex watches and those expensive cars and helping those less fortunate in order to share the love of God with others.
Plain and simple, Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda runs a cult, not a church.
Posted By Jessica, Bourbonnais Illinois : 4:20 PM ET
Charlatans like Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda are able to manipulate people because there are so many people in this world who do not think for themselves, and instead, rely on religion, both cult and mainstream, to do their thinking.

Personally, I don't care what these people believe. My only concern is when they try to force their beliefs, cult or mainstream, on other people and eventually, they all do.
Posted By Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA : 4:35 PM ET
To Joseph in PA:
I couldn't have said it better. People like this nut job feed on those among us who rely on religion like an insurance policy..."If I do X,Y, & Z, then surely I will go to Heaven." These lunatics wouldn't exist if they didn't have hosts-JUST LIKE PARASITES. The whole theory of religion isn't fit for human consumption. People are too inherently flawed.
Posted By Debbie, Denham Springs, LA : 5:55 PM ET
It's really sad to see how manipulative people can be and how thousands of people will believe de Jesus and others alike. I sure hope the followers of de Jesus will see reality. I often wonder what this world would be like if more people focused less on religion....
Posted By Haley Auburn, AL : 7:45 PM ET
So, if this guy is getting persecuted for using church funds for personal gain, should politicians who "accidentally" use campaign funds for make up and haircuts, also be persecuted?
Posted By xtina - chicago IL : 7:47 PM ET
You use the word "charismatic"leader. To me,leaders of cults(that's what they are) are manipulative freeks!
Change the name,the place,it's always the same story. They encourage exclusion from the outside world,claiming they ARE the truth,they are God,blablabla.
I don't think it's sad to see so many people not able to stand on their own and follow those crazy leaders,it infuriates me! The only thing that saddens me is the children caught in this. Bottom line,those kind of leaders are maniacs with egos as large as their churchs,they are criminals at the end of the day.
By the way,Xtina,altough I agree with you that a politician that uses campaign funds for his own purpose should be answering to it,he is not brainwashing kids into believing delusionnal stories and robbing them of their childhood.Let's not forget,children in cults are thought the garbage their leaders say.

Joanne R.
Laval Quebec
Posted By Joanne R,.Laval QUebec : 9:20 PM ET
The bible is a storybook, some of it plagiarized--check out Gilgamesh, for example. If people find comfort in following a guy who claims to be a new version of an old character, let them pay. Salvation is just more storybook stuff. Hope de Jesus enjoys his jail cell.
Posted By Smart Alex, Stoning USA : 9:21 PM ET
This is one of the most bizarre and obviously uncredible people I have heard of. Personally, I think the people following him are rather gullible to be doing so.

Can't they see through his sleezy and extremely un-Jesus like conduct?

If he is truly a believer of Jesus Christ and that he is a holy diety himself, shouldn't he ask himself "What would Jesus do?" and stop acting like a image-concious, gambling, mortal man?
Posted By Hannah faith M. : 11:22 PM ET
I hate to be the one to state the obvious but DeJesus. . AND his followers are all STONED out of their minds!!!:-D
Posted By Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 11:28 PM ET
Gullibility is one thing but stupidity is the driving force behind these wacko "religious" leaders. They depend on stupid people with not one iota of common sense to pay the bills...and then some. If you are stupid enough to fall for this guy's shtick, then you deserve what you get. And what you get is flat broke.
Posted By A. Roy Olson, Tucson AZ : 10:55 AM ET
It seems clear to me that this is an example of destructive cult mind control. There are a concrete set of techniques used that can influence how a person will act, feel and think. These methods can crush a person's ability to think and behave with independence. The persons true self is messed with and remade to fit the image of the cult leader.

Folks don't wittingly join destructive cults in my understanding. I do hope these folks can begin to understand what is happening to them and formulate a way of escaping what appears to be a very destructive cult. I hope they can once again enjoy life with complete freedom of mind.

As the people break free I hope they get the help they may need to see what had happened and heal. Perhaps at a future date they may teach others about destructive cult mind control and how to protect themselves, and loved ones from this devastating course of events.
Posted By Sue SLO, CA : 11:16 AM ET
This is no different than people following and worshiping the original Jesus Christ. There is a big difference in the Jesus's themselves, but not in the followers. I wonder if we would have Christianity as a religion today if Jesus Christ had taken money from his followers and led the high life? Or maybe he did, and the Church deleted that out of all the scriptures, like they did with many other negatives that they determined didn't fit their agenda.

When will people learn.......
Posted By P Anderson, Seattle : 2:02 PM ET
Aren't all messiahs "self-proclaimed"?
Posted By Carol, Pittsburgh, PA : 3:50 AM ET
Here I am trying to make ends meet, mortgage, two car payments, food, gas etc, etc.
I need to start a cult, a lot more lucrative and all you do is lie your behind off and a sucker is born every second.
This is one of the many reasons I love this country, anything goes.
Posted By Angel P. Chula Vista : 10:44 PM ET
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