I understand that news companies are attempting to give an unbiased view of the news, even when they clearly aren’t (“We report, You decide” my ass, FNC).

But I agree very much with Jon Stewart’s view of the media as feckless and overly corporate—not everything, as he says, should be reported as a Pepsi v. Coke sort of news item. Sometimes it is the job of journalists to call stupid or crooked people to task.

As an illustration, let’s take this recent puff piece on MSNBC Arian Campo-Flores.

In the rapturous eyes of his flock, Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda is, in fact, the second coming of Christ. As the head of the Growing in Grace International Ministry, he presides over a sprawling organization that includes more than 300 congregations in two dozen countries, from Argentina to Australia. He counts more than 100,000 followers and claims to reach millions more through a 24-hour TV channel, a radio show and several Web sites. He is supported by the generosity of his devotees, who have launched some 450 businesses to pour cash into Growing in Grace’s coffers. Though de Jesus’ followers worship him, others denounce him as a charlatan. Everyone, however, agrees on one thing: his teachings are incendiary.

If it weren’t for the fact that de Jesus was claiming to be a reincarnated Christ, you might read most of this paragraph as a simple description of a charismatic preacher. But then comes that line, “others denounce him as a charlatan.” Why do they do this?

A native of Puerto Rico, de Jesus, 60, spent his youth drifting from the Roman Catholics to the Pentecostals to the Baptists. Then one night in 1973, he says, he awoke to a vision of two hulking men at his bedside who announced the arrival of the Lord, who, says de Jesus, “came to me and integrated with me.” In the early years after founding Growing in Grace in Miami in 1986, de Jesus didn’t claim to be Christ. Instead, he worked as a pastor spreading his doctrine: that under a new covenant with God, there is no sin and no Satan, and people are predestined to be saved. But as his following expanded, his claims did, too. In 1998, de Jesus avowed that he was the reincarnation of the Apostle Paul. Two years ago at Growing in Grace’s world convention in Venezuela, he declared himself Christ. And just last week, he called himself the Antichrist and revealed a “666” tattooed on his forearm. His explanation: that, as the second coming of Christ, he rejects the continued worship of Jesus of Nazareth.

Emphasis mine. So, an aimless Puerto Rican claims that the Lord (or perhaps just someone named Jesus) with two burly bodyguards “integrated” with him one night in 1973. Is it just me, or does it sound like this guy is repressing something?

In all seriousness, it’s clear that in fact de Jesus is a charlatan: he’s not even competent enough to make the same crazy claim consistently—he’s Paul one minute, Christ the next, and then apparently an Antichrist, for some wholly strange reason. He’s either a poor liar, or he’s a wackjob in the most severe sense. Remember the last time we had an “I’m Jesus!” cult leader with a large following? It ended in a large fire and a lot of death.

Clearly, de Jesus has nothing new or interesting to say, besides being charismatic and preying on the gullibility and general ignorance of over 100’000 people.

All members of Growing in Grace are expected to tithe—which, along with offerings, yielded $1.4 million for headquarters last year. One of the first orders of business at every service is the collection of money (credit cards accepted). Those who have pledged their businesses to de Jesus donate much more. Alvaro Albarracín, a savvy, successful businessman given the title Entrepreneur of Entrepreneurs by de Jesus, is an example. Over the course of Albarracín’s 14 years in the church, he estimates that he’s given roughly $2.5 million. Such funds help underwrite a lavish lifestyle for de Jesus, including diamond-encrusted gold rings and fancy cars.

It should come as no surprise, then, that de Jesus milks his stupid constituency for their money to fund an opulent lifestyle for himself. Like any evangelist selling his snake-oil as holy water, I would trust him about as far as I could through his pudgy, lying ass. But after telling us about his “doctrine” and his crooked finances with a straight face, what does the author of the article say? “Some observers call Growing in Grace a cult.”

Not “Growing in Grace is a cult,” or anything like that. “Some observers…” as in “It’s one side of the story, but it would be equally valid to say that de Jesus really is the incarnation of Christ.”

What kind of tripe is being fed to us? This sort of sugar-coated journalism is why I hate watching the morning news with its “human interest” stories. In my mind, there’s very little difference between “Look, the dog thinks it’s people!” and “Look, the Puerto Rican thinks he’s a god!”

§1701 · January 31, 2007 · Tags: , , , ·

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