Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Do I tak a sympathetic Approach to cults? That has been the accusation since the late 1980s and since when I was known for my work with and support of the Worldwide Church of God, Jesus People USA, University Bible Fellowship, and most recently, the Local Church.

Here's an email message that makes reference to such:

From: Anton Hein [mailto:ahein@xs4all.nl]
Sent: Friday, June 15, 2007 10:43 AM
To: ar-talk@apologia.org
Subject: [AR-talk] Hanegraaf/Passantino/Morehead/Tucker amicus brief online

I have posted the Friend of the Court brief filed by Hank Hanegraaff, Gretchen Passantino, John Morehead and Ruth A. Tucker in support of the Local Church – a cult of Christianity – over here:


The Local Church has its origins in China, the founding fathers being WITNESS LEE, and before him WATCHMAN NEE, who is well known worldwide for his writings on Christian spirituality and suffering.

A minister in the Local Church has written an interesting overview of the Local Church. He's not entirely positive (nor and I), but it is interesting that he can post something that contains negative reflections and continue his ministry. A true "cult" rarely permits such. Check out the site here.


New "cults" pop up like dandelions in spring. I've studied cults and new religions for more than a quarter century and nothing surprises me anymore. It's hard to keep up with all the new religions in the Western world, say nothing of those in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

In Another Gospel, I deal with groups from the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses to TM and the Christadelphians.

Here is one of the latest to make the headlines though it has been around for two decades:

Creciendo en Gracia

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. (Watch followers get 666 tattoos for their leader Video)

"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?
Prophets 'spoke to me'

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.

For more, see news story.