When you are flipping through channels and a smiling Hispanic man assures the reporter that he is the second coming of Jesus Christ it will most certainly end the remote button pushing and probably cause some double-takes.
Last night the ABC News program “The Outsiders” featured a story on Jose de Jesus who claims to be the “second manifestation” of Jesus Christ. While as a Christian my first response is to gasp at the audacity of the man, my more thoughtful response is to applaud his honesty.
De Jesus grew up in government housing in Puerto Rico stealing to pay for his teenage heroin addiction. This landed him in jail for nine months, where he claims he was born again.
He moved to the United States became involved with church youth groups and eventually became a minister in Boston. But after that a vision revealed that he was now God incarnate.
De Jesus, who now lives in an affluent suburb of Houston, said, “The same spirit that was in Jesus of Nazareth, and the same spirit is in me. He came to me. He [integrated] with my person in 1973” when two angels came to him in a vision.
His “millions of followers” don’t seem to mind that de Jesus can offer no proof to any of his claims – they like what he is saying. “So you tell the millions of followers I have that … this guy is a liar. You know what are they going to say? Is that I prefer his lies than what religion gave me,” de Jesus told ABC.
He’s right and reaping the rewards of it. As he parades around Hispanic communities in the US and Latin America, he is lavished with praise and financial benefits. De Jesus’ official accountant, his daughter, said that the luxuries around her father are simply gifts from loving followers. “They’re just very grateful, and they want to give him gifts.”
The reason why I, a conservative evangelical Christian, would recognize the honesty of someone like de Jesus is that he merely personifyies and espouses the idea that many of us hold so dear – “I am the final authority,” essentially “I am God.”
While Jose parades and profits from his beliefs, most of us tend to hide from the fact that we feel (and act like) we are God, even – sometimes especially – Christians. We can see clearly that an action is morally wrong, but we come up with enough reasons we are justified in an attempt to soften or excuse our disobedience. Many times we know that we should do something, but we convince ourselves that it would be better if we stayed out of it. Through our actions, we say that we are God or at least we know better than He does.
The theology that de Jesus teaches meshes perfectly with his doctrine of personal deity. His upbeat messages delivered to faithful gathering in a hotel conference room assures followers that there is no such thing as sin, hell, Satan or any type of eternal punishment of their behavior.
He believes things such as murder are crimes, punishable here on earth, but not sins, punishable in eternity, because Jesus (the first one) died and was resurrected and now no one can do anything wrong in God’s eyes. “Before the presence of God, there’s no more sin,” exlained de Jesus.
Despite his abnormal beliefs, some of his doctrine is actually inline with orthodox Christianity. He told ABC that “Heaven doesn’t have anything to do with your behavior.” According to Christian doctrine, he is correct – salvation is about God’s grace and we cannot do anything to earn it. But he is not right in the way he applies it – live however you would like.
De Jesus said that he has gleaned his teaching from Paul, whom he claims is the only New Testament writer to get it right. One can assume however that de Jesus does not preach from Romans 6.
“So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good?” – Romans 6:1-2, The Message
If his message is clearly not biblical, why then are so many people leaving a faith in Jesus of Nazareth behind to embrace Jesus of Suburbia. Again, Paul is the place to turn. In his instructions to Timothy on being a pastor, Paul explains why a shift like this takes place.
2 Timothy 4:3, NIV – “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
The Message phrases it like this: “You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages.”
People tend to follow and believe what they want to be true. People have an inate desire to be in control, to answer to no one for their actions. They not only want to be their own boss, they want to be their own God.
While some take the atheistic, materialistic route to avoid answering to a higher power, many more find comfort in their own deity. The grasp of materialism on younger generations is weakening as testifyied to by atheist Lauren Sandler in her book “Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement.” She sees the need of a Great Secular Awakening to stem the tide of what see deems the “disciple generation.” What Sandler and others recognize is that religion, particularly evangelical Christianity, has been providing people with a sense of belonging and purpose, while atheist have lagged in that area.
Unlike Sandler, de Jesus and those like him provide followers with the “best of both worlds.” Disciples of this Jesus (the second one) can experience a sense of fellowship, along with the “freedom” to avoid accountability. They can somewhat satisfy the spiritual longings they have and continue to live life however they would like – no questions, no qualms.
While Christians can and should continue to engage in addressing the concerns and objections brought up by materialists, the next great battle we face will not be led by Richard Dawkins, but by Jose de Jesus and an army of individual Gods.