A Russian man, who was once a traffic cop, recently lost his job and started a cult of 5,000, claiming he is Jesus Christ reborn.
Sergei Torop certainly looks the part, taking on the generic representation of Jesus with long brown hair, a beard, and all white attire.
The 56-year-old has many followers convinced, calling himself Vissarion, and saying he is the founder of the Church of the Last Testament. In the small, isolated village of Petropavlovka–more than 2,000 miles from Moscow–Torop’s followers idolize him.
He claims he was “reborn” in 1991; since, hundreds have moved into wooden huts in the village surrounding his church, giving up their lives to be near who they believe is the actual reincarnation of Jesus.
Torop has established his own religious regimen, which his followers have undertaken. They are mandated to be strict vegans and are banned from smoking, drinking, and handling money.
Thousands more have moved to the villages surrounding Petropavlovka, and they all listen three times a day for a bell that tolls from a nearby mountaintop, signaling when they should stop their back-breaking work to kneel and pray.
The Daily Mail notes that Vissarion’s cult is an example of the Russian people’s predisposition for “personality cults.” The tradition dates to the days of Rasputin, the mystic who befriended Tsar Nicholas II.
Communist figures Stalin and Lenin actively sought to capitalize on the “religious fervor” with which the people worshipped powerful figures.
Torop had been working as a traffic cop on the night shift in the small Siberian town of Minusinsk until being laid off.
He claims something suddenly “awoke” inside him, and he knew he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, 2,000 years after his crucifixion.
His community even measures time as if he were Christ. Since Vissarion is 56, the year in the village is 57.
Critics in Russia have accused him of taking advantage of his followers for personal gain.
In recent years, he has traveled to France, Italy, and Holland to ‘convert’ new followers, though he claims his visits were sponsored by his hosts and that his church makes no money.
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