With a smile on his face, the Anti-Christ leaned over and blew out the candles on a birthday cake decorated with a big black "666." The fifty or so of his followers crammed into the small storefront church on Bissonnet, across the street from a used car lot, went nuts, cheering "Feliz Navidad!" This is because Wednesday, April 22, was the real Christmas -- or at least that's what the followers of Missouri City resident José Luis De Jesús Miranda believe.
To a newcomer, it can be a bit confusing, as the 63-year-old Miranda refers to himself both as the Second Coming of Christ and the Anti-Christ. But in the world of Growing With Grace Ministries, the term "anti-Christ" and the accompanying triple-sixes aren't the signs of Satan. They're the language of the real gospel, the one which states the rest of Christianity has been hoodwinked into believing that there is still sin in the world. Miranda's followers, who allegedly span 30 countries, believe that sin died with Jesus (the first one -- the middle-Eastern Jewish dude) on the cross.
On Wednesday, Miranda made his first public appearance in eight months, an occasion his publicist Axel Poessey made a big deal to Hair Balls about, but which was actually a tad superfluous.
Turns out that, while Jesus Christ was right there in the room with them, followers observed this most holy of days by watching him deliver a pre-recorded sermon on a flat-screen TV. Delivered in Spanish, the sermon was the climax to a series of music videos and clips of other Navidad celebrations allegedly taking place in real-time around the world.
Miranda and his wife sat silent at a table decorated with a cubed-ham-and-cheese sculpture, their backs to the rest of the room, as he and his followers reveled in his glory. Afterwards -- following the tithings that were already collected -- he accepted a steady flow of presents; which begs the question: how on Earth do you find a good enough gift for a dude whose soul is immortal?
But it's actually not that difficult. Whereas as Jesus the First largely eschewed creature comforts, washed people's feet, and tooled into town on the back of a burro, Jesus: The Sequel rolls in a black Mercedes SUV and rocks a diamond-encrusted Pasha watch.
Miranda promised Hair Balls an exclusive interview, which made us a bit nervous. After all, we're used to talking to lawyers and business owners and victims of crime and the occasional crook. Supernatural beings are a bit of a curveball. Fortunately, Miranda is still of the flesh; he says his transformation into a purely spiritual entity won't occur until the flesh expires. Think about it: If you had the chance to interview Jesus Christ, what would be the number-one thing you'd want to ask?
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By the time Hair Balls followed Miranda, an assistant, and a photographer into a private room, we knew what we wanted to ask, although we felt kind of bad, what with all the festivities going out on the other side of the door. But Hair Balls had been thinking that day about Hallie Briann Jenkins, the four-year-old girl whose body was recovered from Greens Bayou the day before. Hers was the last of five children's corpses to be found, a few days after Charlton Jenkins skidded his mini-drive down an embankment and into the water. Police say he was drunk and had been talking on his cell phone at the time.
To Hair Balls, it seemed like a shame that those kids had to die, what with Jesus living about 50 miles away. So we asked him: why do you let bad things happen?
Here's what he told us: "Until the transformation comes, I won't be able to do much, with the limitations of the human body." When that happens, he said, "Evil will be controlled, and the Son of Perdition will be taken away from the Earth."
Which sounds wonderful; it's just too bad it didn't happen in time for Hallie Briann Jenkins.