Followers of a Puerto Rican man who claims to be Jesus Christ sang his praises at a rally in downtown Miami
It was like a big party — more than a hundred people waving flags, dancing to salsa music and cheering wildly by the Torch of Friendship in downtown Miami.
And nearly all wore T-shirts and pins bearing the image of the same man: a middle-aged Puerto Rican man by the name of José Luis De Jesús Miranda who claims to be Jesus Christ.
”Hés not just anybody,” said Jenny Baez, 34, who drove in from Massachusetts for Saturday’s event. “Hés God.”
De Jesús is the leader of Creciendo en Gracia — Growing in Grace — a controversial religious sect with thousands of followers around the world. The throng gathered in front of the monument off Biscayne Boulevard to celebrate their savior, who said he would prove that hés a prophet at the group’s headquarters in Miami on Saturday night.
De Jesús did not attend, but the ministry’s No. 2 man, Carlos Cestero, rallied in his place wearing jeans, a baseball cap and Nike sneakers.
”Wére here to say no more to false doctrines,” Cestero told the cheering crowd. “Jesus Christ himself is here to save you, and his name is José Luis De Jesús Miranda!”
To demonstrate opposition to other religions, Cestero and two dozen worshipers of De Jesús ripped up copies of the Bible and the Torah. They smashed religious statues on the pavement and tore baptismal gowns and wedding veils.
”Mentiras!” the crowd shouted. “Lies!”
De Jesús founded the ministry in a Hialeah warehouse in 1986 after he says God spoke to him. In 2004, he declared himself God and the sole interpreter of the gospel.
Now, there are Creciendo en Gracia education centers with about 200 pastors in more than 50 countries. In a contrarian’s take on Christianity, members believe sin was abolished when Jesus was crucified. They don’t believe the devil exists.
Jean Rojas, 24, and her husband, David, came to the event from South Carolina. Her parents, who are pastors for the group in Texas, also attended.
”Growing up, I didn’t agree with the stuff we learned in Sunday school,” said Jean, who joined the group five years ago. “I didn’t understand why I had to repent if I hadn’t sinned. Now, I’ve found my religion.”
As the rally came to a close, De Jesús’s salsa-sounding theme music kicked in and his followers sang and danced.
Overhead, a propeller plane carrying a large banner reminded them: “God has come. See him. 8 PM.”