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Meet the Controversial Brazilian Church Behind Flagler Street "We Undo Witchcraft" Sign

Categories: WTF Florida

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The sign on the corner of West Flagler Street and SW 35th Avenue is huge and explicit: "DESHACEMOS BRUJERIA," it says in white block letters over a red-and-black background, with an 800 number listed below. "WE UNDO WITCHCRAFT."

It's left many a driver doing a doubletake and mouthing, ¿Qué? Curiosity has built in recent months, with a Reddit post on the topic inspiring dozens of comments and a Twitter outburst speculating as to what the church is up to. The truth may actually be stranger than the internet speculation about bubbling cauldrons and Santería rituals.

In fact, the bizarre sign belongs to one of the world's fastest-growing -- and most controversial -- Christian evangelical movements: the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, a Pentecostal organization commonly known as Pare de Sufrir.

The organization was founded in Brazil in 1977 by Edir Macedo, at the time a 30-year-old former lottery worker who promoted himself as a bishop. Macedo charismatically preached the ability to cast out evil spirits through prayer, and his church gained a rapid following.

Within two decades, Pare de Sufrir had a reported eight million believers in Brazil and another four million internationally. His first American temple was established in Manhattan in 1986; others followed everywhere from Uganda to Japan.

But as the church's ranks swelled, so did the controversies. Pare de Sufrir advocates a Pentecostal strain called "prosperity theology,"which holds that a follower's donations directly affect his favor with God. The church has been accused of exploiting members by demanding they donate 10 percent of their salaries.

In 2000 one ex-follower in Texas publicly denounced the organization after claiming she had been bilked out of $60,000 in just three years. The same year, two members in London, believing their 8-year-old daughter was possessed by
demons, infamously tied her up in a bathtub and beat her with bicycle chains. The girl eventually died.

Throughout the years, Macedo, now a billionaire media mogul who travels by private jet, has battled frequent accusations of money laundering and corruption, but the church has continued prospering. Just last week, the New York Times reports, it opened its most garish temple yet: a $300 million replica of the Temple of Solomon that occupies an entire São Paulo block.

"We sought to build a colossus, something that would make people stop and gaze," the project's architect, Rogério Araújo, told the Times.

The Flagler Street temple is only several years old (though Pare de Sufrir has been in the area for around 20 years). Step inside and you might not find any particularly gripping witchcraft-undoing ceremonies.

At a sermon last week, only six elderly parishioners sat in the pews while a young, clean-cut Brazilian pastor spoke in heavily accented Spanish. He encouraged the parishioners to bring as many people as they could to later services. After half an hour or so, the small group congregated at the front of the pews and sang.

Afterward, an elderly woman told New Times she's originally from Argentina and has been a devotee for around 20 years. She says that the prayers have helped her and her family and that she dutifully pays 10 percent of her housekeeping salary every week -- about $30.

"You have to be loyal to God," she says in Spanish. "Ten percent of your salary -- that's nothing. I've been cured of alcoholism. I've been cured of so many things."

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59 comments
gamunoz
gamunoz

You sure know your doing the will of God when you're getting critized for it.

gamunoz
gamunoz

Quiero, por medio de esta carta, agradecerles a los medios de comunicación Red Globo de Televisión, Folha de São Paulo y Revista Veja; a los críticos de corbata; a los mentores de la prisión del obispo Macedo; a los cantantes que intentaron denigrar a la Universal y al obispo Macedo con sus letras de "canciones"; a los que mintieron a nuestro respecto; a los periódicos que vendieron noticias contra la Iglesia; a los locutores que usaron sus voces durante minutos, e incluso durante horas, durante semanas, sembrando sus mentiras en sus oyentes.

Les agradezco incluso a aquellos predicadores que usaron sus púlpitos y programas para vacunar a su pueblo contra la Universal.

¡Púlpitos y programas que deberían haber sido usados para llevar la buena y perfecta Palabra de Dios a los afligidos!

Les agradezco además a los que se rebelaron contra este ministerio y salieron, llevándose consigo a la tercera parte de las estrellas, mostrando que, de hecho, el Señor Jesús ama a esta Obra. Él incluso permitió que todo esto sucediera para limpiar y purificar Su Santa Obra.

Les agradezco también a quienes le tiraron piedras a esta Obra, porque con tales piedras el Espíritu Santo nos dio condiciones de construir grandes iglesias.

Todo esto nos lleva a ver que la Iglesia Universal es Bienaventurada. Así nos muestra la Biblia:

Bienaventurados los que padecen persecución por causa de la justicia, porque de ellos es el Reino de los cielos. Bienaventurados sois cuando por Mi causa os vituperen y os persigan, y digan toda clase de mal contra vosotros, mintiendo. Gozaos y alegraos, porque vuestro galardón es grande en los cielos; porque así persiguieron a los profetas que fueron antes de vosotros. Mateo 5:10-12

Les agradezco incluso a los que fueron usados por los demonios para perseguir, apresar, crucificar y matar al Señor Jesús.

Ellos pensaron que estaban haciéndole mal a la humanidad. En realidad, les hicieron un gran favor a los perdidos, ¡porque por medio de la Muerte del Señor Jesús, tenemos acceso a la presencia de Dios!

Luiz Felix
Luiz Felix

This church is bad news. Many like that in Brazil. In Africa they been banned. Stupid people everywhere.

Leonor Rodriguez
Leonor Rodriguez

From my own personal experience - they r false money seeking jerks taking advantage of people's desperation. U r only untitled to their salvation/prayers & oils/potions if & only if u hand over the $$$$. Oh & not "what ever u can afford money" but the big bucks. I was told by the grand chief himself when I went seeking help that for prayer & "sanasion" it was a minimum of $100. To attend their mass a minimum of 10%. For oils from the holy land a minimum of $50 donation. Oh & if u don't or say u can't they make u feel like crap that u deserve what ur going through bcuz ur not ready for God.

Joseph Mazon
Joseph Mazon

I see no reason whatsoever to give money to preachers, or to religion in general. If you wish to help someone? volunteer, go to a VA Hospital, go to a Soup Kitchen, go to a Homeless Shelter, they ALL need volunteers and you will know in your heart that you have actually helped someone's life, so will God. I seem to recall that the Christian God, Jesus overturned the tables of moneylenders at the temple, seems to me HE would not have asked for money, why do others do so in HIS name?

Tom Calderon
Tom Calderon

This is the old Flagler Street Baptist Church, former Miami Mayor Robert King High attended church here and I believe his funeral was also held in this church

Johaira Denise Cespedes
Johaira Denise Cespedes

False Gods. Anyone seeking to make profit from God's work is without understanding. God does not need money or to have a church collecting it. When a church collects donation it is of the their free will n mission. Most missions feed homeless etc. Private jets are not. ... a necessary asset in order to cast demons. This is taking advantage of the already suffering. $$$ does not end suffering. Many walk around semi possessed. We all seem to have demons in our closets. I have a suspicion that if ekballism and exhortation are your gifts then you work on God's command. ... not the dolla dolla bills command. People be careful which ghost buster you call. It's becoming more of a social trend rather than a path.

Anthonyvop1
Anthonyvop1 topcommenter

If people are dumb enough to believe it........

Larry Herrero
Larry Herrero

Prior banners claim to cure alcoholism, cancer, aids, etc. All taking in amounts of money to meet the lifestyle of its "pastor". It's like going to a health food vegan restaurant and being told that by eating their type of food I can be cured of several diseases. Just as long as we leave the money behind. Typical of any church or religion.

Ernesto Martinot
Ernesto Martinot

I dont understand what is the difference between that sign and others that promise "heaven". They are all fantasy.

Adnarim Ed Yelsek
Adnarim Ed Yelsek

I'm going to go on a limb and say something in response to people who think this is stupid. First of, I am open to different possibilities and explanations of the world. For us as humans to believe we can understand the universe is arrogant. We are ants. Our brain does not have the capacity to even comprehend what the real truth is. We can just try our best. As Socrates said "All I know is that I know nothing..." So here is my theory on why this actually works for some people from a more down-to-earth point of view. The placebo effect, confirmation bias, reticular activating system, etc. It's all about belief, or what they call "faith." If you believe it will work, it will work. Why? Our brains are very powerful machines, but sometimes they can get the best of us. If we are programming ourselves to believe something will not work, we put ourselves in a powerless state and we fail to see the actual solutions in front of our face. You say it's not going to work, so you literally don't perceive it, your mind just "screens out" the possibilities. You get someone in that state that doesn't believe this can happen but DOES believe in this external force, it restores their faith... Therefore their reticular activating system fires up to perceive the variables in their life that will allow them to resolve their situation. Of course context has a lot to do with it... A lamborghini is probably not going to fall out of the sky. But maybe you have a sick family member and have lost hope, but with your restored faith, you happen to come across some new research that is related to their condition which leads to some other article about xyz and you put the pieces together and it might work out. Otherwise, you wouldn't even try. Also, I do leave room for there to be a supernatural aspect to it... Even the philosophers of the past which are much respected in our society did see as "consciousness" itself to be an unexplained phenomenon which we can't really be sure where it comes from. Yes, I just wrote this long philosophical comment in some random article no one is going to read and I don't care. Deal with it.

Natalie Camejo
Natalie Camejo

This makes me sad on so many levels Mauri Torres Apo Restrepo

Elizabeth Sanchez
Elizabeth Sanchez

Glad they are using the space wisely! Nathan Robert Restrepo Christopher ZenAffleck Rodriguez Albert DopeBieber Melendez

cynic
cynic

10% of your salary didn't cure your alcoholoism, not being able to afford booze any longer cured your alcoholism...

Ernie Torres
Ernie Torres

Different churches have different agendas & visions. No 2 are alike. Not every church is like this so it is very irresponsible to say that "religion" is a business or that God is not real. Unfortunately this is a bad example of church and they give Christians a bad name. Christianity is not a religion, it is personal relationship with Jesus. God is very real & we will all have our day.

Mark Revello
Mark Revello

Whatever just like the church to run scam after scam searching for money. Fastest declining religion in the world.

Familia Ramirez
Familia Ramirez

Religion is a business! When will people wake up and see that! Invest in your mind,better yourselves that's the true awnser. This church in particular are crooks in Brasil and now here! They are tax exempt,they don't declare their full income,they own other businesses and funnel the money back to Brasil.

Dulce Maria
Dulce Maria

Everyone worships something: science, god, cars or shoes.

Adnarim Ed Yelsek
Adnarim Ed Yelsek

Um. Are you new to Miami? Ever heard of un "despojo" or "una limpieza"? How is this controversial? This is like our everyday culture. LOL.

Anthony Cabrera
Anthony Cabrera

According to one of the signs, they also cure AIDS and Cancer. Whatever!

Palangana
Palangana topcommenter

Flagler Avenue???

Diana Ferro
Diana Ferro

You critize people who give 10% to the church but dont tell where you all spend your money on? Or how much you pay for things that you like? Yet you like to critize those who believe different than you.Bunch of Hypocrits...

Edward Delatorre
Edward Delatorre

"Take advantage of the poor, ignorant, and desperate people" I'm agnostic myself, but that was an asinine response. Arthur Eddington, an important mathematical cosmologist, was a Quaker. Georges Lemaître, a Roman Catholic priest, proposed the Big Bang theory. Henry F. "Fritz" Schaefer is one of the foremost theoretical chemists of our day. William Phillips was co-recipient of the . 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics Francis Collins (also here) is the director of the U.S. Human Genome Project. Rustum Roy, one of the world's foremost materials scientists, holds three chairs Nicolaus Copernicus: 1473-1543 Polish Astronomer Developed the heliocentric theory of the solar system. Galileo Galilei: 1564-1642 Italian Physicist "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." Johannes Kepler: 1571-1630 German Astronomer The 3 laws of planetary motion. Advanced Copernicus' heliocentric theory. "Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature, it befits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our minds, but rather, above all else, of the glory of God." Blaise Pascal: 1623-1662 French Mathemetician "There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ." (Pensees)? But by Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ, we prove God and teach doctrine and morals. Jesus Christ, then, is the true God of men." Newton Isaac: 1642-1727 (born Dec 25) English Mathemetician Laws of gravitation and motion, developed calculus. Major contributions to optics, physics, math and astronomy. The solar system itself could not have been produced by blind chance or fortuitous causes but only by a cause "very well skilled in mechanics and geometry." Michael Faraday: 1791-1869 English Chemist Discovered Benzene, electromagnetic induction, lines of force, relationship between polarized light and magnetic fields. Strong believer in the literal interpretation of Scripture. Deacon and elder in his church. "Since peace is alone in the gift of God; and since it is He who gives it, why should we be afraid? His unspeakable gift in His beloved Son is the ground of no doubtful hope." Lord Kelvin: 1824-1907 (William Thomson) British Physicist First and second laws of thermodynamics. Absolute temp scale. Trans-Atlantic cable. "I believe that the more thoroughly science is studied, the further does it take us from anything comparable to atheism."

Audio-Video Expert-Designs
Audio-Video Expert-Designs

FYI they have an outstanding bill with us for services provided which they never paid for. However Jesus forgives so i guess that's ok for them to rip off local contractors.

Annette La Ley-Ley
Annette La Ley-Ley

Some lady invite me to church and told me they would be giving out an oil that would heal me. If I wanted to explore wizardry I would stick to the botanica down the street.

Alex Blandon
Alex Blandon

I thank science that I don't believe in god.

Luisy VWater
Luisy VWater

Thaisa Candido edir macedo em miami NINGUEM MERECE!!!!

Terry St Angelo
Terry St Angelo

All religions are cults and take advantage of the poor, ignorant and desperate people

Vanessa Carolina
Vanessa Carolina

hell naw!!! Marcela R Montoya the other day they were passing out flyers to get some "aceite bendito" pfffffffffffttt!

Marcela R Montoya
Marcela R Montoya

They came knocking on the door asking to join them! \U0001f633\U0001f602\U0001f602 Vanessa Carolina

Vanessa Carolina
Vanessa Carolina

Marcela R Montoya the church by the house is famous!!!!!!!!!

Abby Drake
Abby Drake

I bet the members iq's are also in the lowest 10%

Frank Castle
Frank Castle

Hahaha...that sign is directed to stupid cubans who do brujeria...never believed in that crap

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