From the Margins to the Mainstream: Recreational Christianity and a Viral Rebranding
This chapter begins by examining the growth and expanded influence of the “Robert Tilton Fan Club” (RTFC), the titular televangelist’s “unofficial” ironic fan following, in tandem with his unfolding scandals. The RTFC evidenced a form of comedic religious work/play that its founder would describe as “Recreational Christianity”—a concept redefined here to enhance its analytical utility. While the RTFC did not survive a temporary shutdown of Tilton’s television ministry, the Trinity Foundation would bring a more satirical form of Recreational Christianity to cable television with “Godstuff,” a segment featuring unintentionally amusing footage of television preachers, Tilton included. However, it would be Brother O’Nottigan’s flatulent remix, once relocated online, that would prove the most culturally impactful example of Tilton-related participatory media, resulting in a viral rebranding of the preacher beyond his ministry’s control.