By Judi McLeod
Friday, February 23, 2007
George W. Bush and Prince Charles have some stiff competition as the Antichrist. Bush and the prince are fingered as the Antichrist by conspiracy theorists. The self-proclaimed Antichrist is a Latino, known as de Jesus or "Daddy" to thousands of followers, and you can bet the family farm that it was CNN.com that dragged him out of obscurity.
"The minister has the number 666 tattooed on his arm. But Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda is not your typical minister." ( www.CNN.com, February 21, 2007).
"The spirit that is in me is the same spirit that was in Jesus of Nazareth," de Jesus says.
Not surprisingly, de Jesus' claims of divinity have angered Christian leaders, who say he is a fake. Religious experts do not have to delve into theology to worry that he may be something much more dangerous, perhaps even a cult leader whose divinity is founded in delusions of grandeur.
But for those who would assume that "Daddy" leans too heavily on macho for some of his boasts, his church claims thousands of members in 30 countries.
"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.
And if de Jesus really does go to the noggins of his followers the way champagne goes to other people's heads, they should give their noggins a shake and understand anybody can claim the number 666 as their own.
Indeed, the secular European Union and Javier Solana seem to have got their first.
Absurdly, the EU has seat number 666 on reserve in its massive crystal palace tower, officially known as the Tower Building.
According to Rev. Ian Paisley, "It is certainly a building of the space age. "The seats of its massive hemicycle are designed like the crew seats in the Star Trek space machines. There are 670 of them--but wait for it! While these seats are allocated to members, one seat remains unoccupied. The number of that seat is 666."
The number 666 seems to be a favourite with the EU. In 2000, with help from France, Solana created a military command structure in the EU, purportedly to compete with the U.S. for global dominance and the Mediterranean by implementing Recommendation 666.
Prof. Alvarez sees the shades of a cult leader in de Jesus. "De Jesus speaks with a kind of conviction that makes me consider him more like David Koresh or Jim Jones," he says.
"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?" asks CNN.com.
De Jesus and followers say their church is thoroughly "Creciendo en Gracia", Spanish for "Growing in grace".
De Jesus, 61, who hails from Puerto Rico has a checkered past, having served prison terms for petty theft and was once a heroin addict.
That was before he became the reincarnation of Jesus, something he discovered 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 and what they have been expecting for 2,000 years," de Jesus explains.
The same prophets would roll in their graves if they knew that his followers have protested churches in Miami, hometown of their own church, as well as churches in Latin America where they have disrupted services and smashed crosses and statues of Jesus.
But since in the teachings of de Jesus there is no devil and no sin, his followers can do no wrong.
No ordinary church named after a saint, the de Jesus church calls itself the "Government of God on Earth and identifies with a seal patterned on that of the United States of America.
And just as humility is not part of church doctrine, neither is poverty.
De Jesus tools around town in armored Lexuses and BMWs and sports one of three diamond-encrusted Rolexes.
"Daddy" has a lot to say about the Antichrist being a good guy.
"Antichrist is the best person in the world," he says. "Antichrist means don't put your eyes on Jesus because Jesus of Nazareth wasn't a Christian. Antichrist means do not put your eyes on Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Put it on Jesus after the cross."
Jesus after the cross is, of course, the man wearing the diamond-encrusted Rolex.
To show how devoted they are to the Antichrist, 30 members of his congregation recently went to a tattoo parlor to have 666 tattoos matching the one on the arm of their pastor.
Move over Rev. Sun Myung Moon, Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda is here.