The Wit of Robert Tilton

Jon Rowe has a brief post up about Robert Tilton, one of my favorite TV evangelist hucksters and one of his as well. Another of my favorites is Peter Popoff, whose mailing list I used to be on. Both Tilton and Popoff were exposed on national television as frauds, Tilton by Diane Sawyer on Prime Time Live and Popoff on the Tonight Show by James Randi. Both closed up shop in disgrace; both are now back on television with the money flowing in once again.

Anyone who has ever been on the mailing list of one of these con men will recognize the pleas detailed in this article from the direct mail that still brings in almost a million dollars a month for Tilton even after his fall from grace:

"Do you need more money?" reads an envelope received by a California resident a few months ago. Two pennies are visible through a cellophane-covered aperture.

Inside the envelope is a message from Tilton: "Take the miracle request prayer sheet that I have enclosed with the coins and carefully write down the areas of your life (especially financial) where you want me to release my anointing on your behalf... and then WRITE A CHECK FOR THE BEST POSSIBLE GIFT THAT YOU CAN GIVE!! Make it a widow's step-of-faith and give the devil a black eye by placing the biggest, largest, most generous gift (that would defy natural reason) into God's work."

Tilton includes instructions to pray over the coins and send them back with a check. "Your two token coins will be placed in my New Testament Treasury Chest for me to bless every day," he writes. "I will then send you an anointed miracle coin to use as your miracle reminder and as a point of contact to carry with you wherever you go."

The mailings are accompanied by testimonials from victims of peptic ulcers, layoffs, cigarette addiction, deadly spider bites, rebellious children, infertility, insomnia, and AIDS. Their lives turned around after they sent money to Tilton. Take "Robert," for example, a miracle recipient identified by first name only: "Everything was crumbling around me," Robert explains. "My two best friends had just sued me. My landlord had served me with an eviction notice. I was jobless and flat broke. I wouldn't answer the telephone because I knew it would be a bill collector.

"I was cowering in a chair with all my curtains closed. Heartbreaking love songs gushed from the stereo.... I lit a joint.

"Robert Tilton was praying [on TV]. I can't explain it but I heard him say, 'You. Right there. You're smoking a joint.' I dropped the joint and he said, 'You just dropped it.' I started crying. I KNEW IT WAS GOD TALKING TO ME."

The mailings come with trinkets such as seeds or sand or salt packets. A Dallas woman received a small strip of red polyester. "Right now this cloth is plain fabric," Tilton wrote, "but after I send it back to you it will be a Miracle Cloth saturated with the presence of God."

I have to laugh just reading that. From Popoff, I once received a little white piece of cloth that the letter accompanying it related to the aprons and handkerchief touched by Paul that were allegedly used to heal the sick in Acts 19. I was instructed to write my name on it with the little pencil that was enclosed and send it back to them, with a large donation of course. He would pray over it for God's anointing upon me. The fact is that there is a seemingly endless supply of people who actually fall for this sort of thing, which I continue to find astonishing. Who was it who said that there are only two things that are infinite, the universe itself and human stupidity?


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"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and i'm not sure about the universe." -Albert Einstein

Ah, thanks Enigma. I thought it was Einstein, and I thought that was the quote, but didn't know for sure. I'm with him on this one.

Have any of you seen the Robert Tilton Fart videos? There are three of them and I have rarely laughed harder! They are easy to to find through google.

By Joshua White (not verified) on 09 Feb 2005 #permalink

I link to them in my post. They are quite funny. I'd also like to get a professional linguist ala Noam Chomsky to decipher Tilton's that Ancient Tongue that Tilton speaks in.

So, "Robert" in the testimonial has a pretty typical marijuana-induced paranoia experience, and we're supposed to believe Tilton changed his life???

This sounds EXACTLY like the crap that Jim Baker used to spread on PTL - basically "give to us and God will give you AT LEAST that amount of $$ back" and they'd have people on the phone claiming it had worked!

Of course, that doesn't beat the time PTL had an alleged female hemophiliac (it's possible, but extremely rare for a woman to have this condition, and her father has to have it as well) who tearfully described how doctors advised her to have an abortion when she got pregnant to save her life, but the abortion had nearly killed her. Well, no duh! lady, you're have uncontrolled bleeding for crying out loud!

After Randi blew Popoff's charade on the Tonight Show, apparently he got lots of mail (so he related to Penn and Teller) ... mainly from people wanting to know how to get in touch with this amazing man, Peter Popoff!

Einstein was right.

Harlan Ellison either quotes or states that the two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.

But I like Einstein's quote better.


By Captain Sunshine (not verified) on 09 Feb 2005 #permalink

Einstein also said that "common sense" is the set of prejudices that one acquires before age 18.

Reminds me of an old mail scam.

"Hurry - Your last chance to send $10 to Post Office Box yadadadadada..."

Nothing offered; nothing delivered!

They made a lot of money before it became illegal!!!!

For all my liberal instincts I just can't persuade myself that anyone who falls for such a ridiculous scam deserves everything they get.

Incidentally, Chomsky isn't the sort of linguist you want - he cares very little about "performance" and more about "competence". You want somebody who studies register.

By Ginger Yellow (not verified) on 10 Feb 2005 #permalink

Sorry, I missed out a "not" in that post. I can't persuade myself that these people don't deserve everything they get.

By Ginger Yellow (not verified) on 10 Feb 2005 #permalink

I can understand where David is coming from. It's just plain sad when people throw themselves at something they know is a scam just to have some hope.
I remember seeing a televangelist doing a similar thing on one of those fundy channels (I swear the background was a used car lot.) He wanted people to write down all their debuts on a peice of paper where he would burn them in a big bonfire sort of a "relief from debt" kind of thing. (Of course he hinted that you should send him some money for his ministry as well.) Then I got an image of him learning that a thousand dollar check was accsidently throwning in with the notes and him jumping into the bonfire to get it.