Without a doubt, the Rev. Robert Tilton's World Outreach Center Church was the master of religious marketing, hitting its peak in the '80s and early '90s. While other televangelists were content to issue the usual ultimatums over the air, Tilton went straight to people's mailboxes to demand their money. Utilizing the cutting-edge techniques of Publishers Clearinghouse, Tilton's direct-mail solicitations were bursting with free religious icons, posters, and order forms. The enclosed letters often addressed the recipients directly by name and were scrawled with handwritten notes, just like the letters from the now legally constrained Clearinghouse. Most ingeniously, Tilton's full-color posters often asked the reader to enact a mission to receive the Lord's blessing ("This is what you need to do immediately!"), creating an interactive bond. In one mailing, he sent out two "Scarlet Cords of Deliverance," one of which you placed in a punched-hole near an enclosed photo of "your biggest need" (such as "wisdom," or "new car"), and then mailed the other cord back to Rev. Tilton—with a donation, of course. Implicit in Tilton's mailings was the idea that if you sent him money ("This very often makes the difference between those who receive and those who don't"), the good reverend would see to it that God delivered good fortune to your doorstep. While utterly shameless in their craven demands for money, these direct-mail pieces are nevertheless entertainingly excessive—and, apparently, successful enough among the poor and elderly to land Tilton in legal troubles that eventually dismantled his operation. (This article in Salon provides a thorough look at the Rev. Tilton's character.) The following pieces are the few I managed to hold onto from the early '90s; if you have any you'd care to donate (heh!) to PopCult, please send me an e-mail.

 

The Scarlet Cords of Deliverance

To Catch a Thief

Assorted (Incomplete Packages)

 

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