URCall: A Cringe Compendium

Zero replies URCall

A sorry sight at any blog

We’ve been looking at it’s videos lately, but URCall – the ICR’s latest attempt to be hip with the youth – has other provinces in its media empire. They have a blog, for example, in which a faint and whispery voice cries out for comments: “what do you think?” it asks. Let’s take a look at what they’ve got.

Content warning: some of these links contain videos, and some satanic influence has caused all those on URCall.org to autoplay upon loading. It’s kind of annoying.

  • Are Tattoos Un-Christian?
    Tattoos! That’s what the youth are talking about these days, right? In this most recent post at time of writing they point out the obligatory Leviticus quote, which is pretty explicit, but also say:

    Several passages from Scripture indicate that God is more concerned about our heart than our outward appearance and that He is more interested in our motives than just the appearance of doing good (1 Samuel 16:7; Matthew 23: 25-27; 1 Cor. 6:20; 10:31).

    It would be nice if more people applied the same logic to other verses, but what can you do? This post also shows the kind of ways that the ICR solicits comments:

    What are your thoughts about tattoos? Should Christians “get inked” or have piercings? How should we interpret Leviticus 19:28 within today’s culture? Is this a cultural rather than a moral issue? Should someone’s outward appearance bring glory to God? Share your views with us below or by using #URcall on social media!

    I’ve learned from experience that, however tempting it may be, ending posts with a question is a great way to not get any answers at all. People take comment boxes as an implied request, and further explicit requests appear to have a negative effect. Leading questions may be the worst, though I need data to be sure about this. I’m not checking the ‘social media’ – on twitter at least it appears to be a wasteland – but the post got one comment from a person called Jesse:

    Dear brethren, Tatoos are very briefly mentioned in the Bible as bad things against the will of God. There is however another implication: any fad on having marks on your body will make people get used to such things, in preparation for the mark of the beast. Barcodes are not mentioned directly in the Bible either, however, they are making people get used to the “separators” three thin closely spaced bars, which can easily be traced to the number “6″ in the barcode (just get a barcode including a “6″ in the digits underneath). When the 666 mark comes along, everybody will say “oh, no problem, it’s just another barcode.”

    To this URCall replied “Jesse, thank you for your comment!”, which cracks me up.

  • Is It Okay for Christians to Listen to Secular Music?
    In a post the previous week we got more of the same, but with more comments. Dan wrote “No more ok than watching television and the answer is no.” to which URCall replied “Dan, thank you for sharing your thoughts. How do you decide what kind of music to listen to?” This kind of response seems to be pretty terrible at engendering further conversation – he did not reply.
    The other two commentors seemed to be of the mind that classical, instrumental and pre-Bach music was best. I may be off here, but I don’t think the ICR is attracting the audience they intended.
  • #YOLO4Christ
    This attempt by the ICR to create a hashtag that would take the world by storm failed. Completely. I don’t pay very much attention to trends myself, but I’m pretty sure they missed the boat on this one by a while, which probably contributed to the problem. The other issue is that it’s just dumb – and the deathly silence in the comments appears to agree.
  • Left Behind Returns to Theaters This Fall (autoplaying video)
    For a while there they were talking about movies, and this post does get some response. They ask:

    What are your thoughts about the relaunching of Left Behind? Should Hollywood personalities be cast in a Christian film? Will this film encourage more people to follow Christ?

    The two commentors are fairly anti – one speculates that this new version will be “even less Christian than the earlier films” and that this is probably why Kirk Cameron isn’t in it again, while another attacks “dispensational end-times theology” and also says:

    On a side not, I think Kirk has changed his views on the doctrine so that could explain why he’s not a part of the project.

    URCall didn’t actually ask what Kirk Cameron was doing, and this lends credence to my idea that people on the internet will answer the question they want to, and the one you actually asked serves only as an impediment to this process.

  • #BringBackOurGirls
    URCall also missed out on this hashtag, which had already been somewhat overcome by cynicism when they decided to explain “the story behind the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.” No comments.
  • Why is Jesus #Trending?
    I’m no Guru, but I would say the hash sign belongs next to ‘Jesus’ – unless they’re trying to be satirical, which I doubt. They mention a number of TV shows about Jesus’ life, and asked “why do you think Jesus is #trending in our culture?” to which nobody replied. By the way, if you’re interested about that sort of thing, you should be reading John Troutman’s Gospel of Carol. Who needs TV?
  • From “Royals” to “Loyal” (autoplaying video)
    Ella Yelich-O’Connor (“Lorde”) seems nice and all, but I have actually managed to avoid listening to her so-far most well known hit and am not about to stop now. Even if – nay, especially if – it’s a remix version that “encourages Christians to stay “loyal” to Jesus.” I’ll add though that “Loyal” is already a New Zealand song, and one that features annoyingly often in hold music in these parts.
    No comments, obviously.

That will do for the roundup. I’ve definitely missed a few posts with comments, but if that’s because of a selection bias on my part it’s because they had less cringeworthy subjects, which is my point really. The kind of techniques used by the ICR to encourage conversation here and elsewhere do not work.

I follow the comment RSS feed for URCall, and lately they’ve been getting fewer than I have – which is quite the achievement, but not the one they want. They are explicitly looking for conversation, and by this metric they have failed. Which is kind of a shame, really, because it doesn’t have to be like that: I have only a few percent of the ICR’s total readership, and on occasions when – by accident or design – they have taken a different tack things have been very busy. If they really want to attract response here’s some unsolicited advice from an actual millennial:

First, ditch the existing URCall blog – it’s going nowhere, see above. Replace its contents with the articles you already write and publish on icr.org but don’t modify them in any way beyond basic formatting. No questions, no (extra) praise Jesuses, no overt requests for comment. Post a fresh article a day, every day – the most recent Creation Science Updates, Acts & Facts, Days of Praise on the weekends if you can’t fill space with other stuff. Advertise: your social meadia links should be to the blog, while links in the blog to previous articles should go to the ICR website proper. Be light on the moderation lever, let in at least some opposition voices to the thread, learn to take the good with the bad. Don’t obsessively reply to every comment. Just sit back and watch the community develop around you, just like you always wanted.

I can’t guarantee that this will be a wild success. I can, on the other hand, be fairly certain that it would be better than the current approach, because that is not in the least bit difficult. And think, none of the other top-three creationist groups allow the same: it could be great for you.

I’m obviously an opposition voice – I think it’s great if the ICR flounders forever, though it would also be no fun. But if anybody at the Institute is wondering what went wrong, don’t say nobody told you.

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13 thoughts on “URCall: A Cringe Compendium

  1. Peter, I agree with almost everything you wrote, but wonder whether being able to say “we told you so” is enough reason to help ICR fix their failed approaches. Considering all the harm they are doing with their efforts to indoctrinate people (especially youngsters) in their misguided doctrine of YECism, why not just let them fail? If I were a cynic, I’d suggest taking the opposite tact–telling them they have a great approach and to keep at it, ha.
    At any rate, it seems a little ironic that they ask for comments on their own blog, and yet they seldom participate in sites like yours that seriously question their views. I surmise want they really want is mostly supportive comments from naive and scientifically shallow followers, not serious challenges or real academic discussion. Likewise, it’s beyond ironic that the last issue of Acts and Facts extolled the value of peer review. since the reason they get away with publishing so much tripe is that they don’t subject their writings to anything close to the rigorous review process of real scientific organizations. ICR’s praising peer review is as absurd as someone advocating healthy eating and exercise, while eating junk food all day (and serving it to their guests) –with their only exercise consisting of making leaps of logic, jumping to conclusions, and running down “evolutionists.”

    • I’m not saying it would be so wildly successful that there will be more creationists than otherwise – maybe the opposite even – but that the ICR would get a bigger share of their attention.

      As for peer review, the ICR is pouring mayonnaise on to their fish and chips and calling it a healthy salad.

  2. Heh. Their response to this post has been to clear their moderation queue – they found four from a few days ago, mostly by the same person.

  3. I’m trying to figure out what even motivated ICR to publish an article praising peer review, since they seldom use it, and didn’t even explicitly claim to. Lisle starts the article by asking “How does ICR assure accuracy and reliability of its articles?” He then explains how scientists welcome critiques of their findings, describing the normal peer review process (submitting an article to a technical scientific journal, where it is reviewed by several experts in the field, who assess it for clarity and logical and factual soundness, offer feedback for improvements, etc.) Obviously Lisle is implying that ICR routinely uses this process, when in reality they seldom do.
    The closest thing to scientific journals in YEC circles is the CRSQ and “The Creation Journal” (which has gone by several other names), but by all evidence the only review the article get are largely from the same small cadre of fellow YECs, who often lack expertise in the topic at hand, and seem more concerned about whether articles conform to YEC tenets than scientific soundness and rigor. Even more problematic are ICR’s own publications where they publish most of their claims, and where where any review process is even more shallow and self-serving. Does anyone imagine, for example, that J Morriis article on whale evolution in the same Acts and Facts issue was submitted to any “technical scientific publication” or reviewed by any experts in the field, like Hans Thewissen or other vertebrate paleontologists? .
    The rest of Lisle’s article also reeked of hypocrisy, as Lisle went on about the importance of accepting and humbly correcting errors, even quoting Proverbs that “The stubborn are slow to be corrected, and their errors continue.” What better description of ICR can there be? Other translations of the same verse are even more blunt, such as, “Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed–without remedy.” (NIV). ICR perhaps out to chew on that before publishing more misleading articles about their publishing habits or anything else. At any rate, as far as their motive goes, I can only speculate that maybe they’ve had complaints or questions about peer review lately, and felt they had to address them; but instead of admitting that they don’t make much use of the process but probably should, they praise it as good and even “Biblical,” hoping most readers would assume that they therefore do use it. Anyway you slice it, it was very bizarre.

  4. A couple more thoughts. Considering that most ICR articles are brimming with scientific errors and sloppy reasoning, if they are subjected to any review, one can only imagine how bad they were before the review! Your posts on this topic a few months ago, based on ICR’s accidentally posting some pre and post edited writings, was enlightening in this regard. To me they seemed to confirm that ICR is more concerned with scoring points for YECism than dealing carefully and thoroughly with the scientific evidence, or spotting and correcting logical errors.
    Of course, your blog and other ICR watchers mean that even tho ICR doesn’t do proper peer review before publication, they often get substantial feedback after the fact. Even when many not chime in, I am sure visitors do appreciate it, perhaps even some YECs. Indeed ICR should too, if they really meant even half of what they said about of welcoming critiques, having a teachable spirit, and correcting errors. .

  5. Goodness, now I feel bad about having questions on my site at points! I have begun featuring a “Question of the Week” post, which has actually garnered a decent response, depending on the post. I also do a “Sunday Quote” which seems to encourage reader participation. Perhaps it helps that I’ve already established a base readership that is used to commenting and interaction. I love the interaction I get on my blog as well, and I feel like when I ask a question I’m doing so because I genuinely seek the input of those who are coming–even critical comments (so long as they aren’t vulgar).

    Thanks for this post. It’s quite a bit different from your usual, but still–as ever–interesting.

  6. What are your thoughts about tattoos? Should Christians “get inked” or have piercings? How should we interpret Leviticus 19:28 within today’s culture? Is this a cultural rather than a moral issue?

    What’s this ? Moral and cultural relativism, the hobgoblin of “Darwinism” ? Levitcus is quite clear that this is a commandment of Yahweh the war god. There is no room for this mamby pamby question of culture vs. morals. The war god has commanded quite unambiguously. From the KVJ …

    Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.

    (emphasis in original)

    ICR had better get their ducks in a row, one doesn’t play around with the war god when he lays down the law. ICR is risking the eternal damnation of children with their wreckless and subjective bandying about with the word of the LORD. Unless, we want to get all lawyerly about it and claim the loophole that what Yahweh really meant was don’t get marked up in remembrance of the dead. In other words, tats are cool as long as you don’t get one in honor of your dead Grandma or Grandpa, that would be immoral. Yeah, I’m gonna go with no on the tattoo issue.

  7. Aside from the Bible verse, which I agree might be a little ambiguous (similar to the commandment about making graven images), I’ve never been big on tats. That’s mostly because I don’t think most are attractive, including the popular rough images (skulls, barb wire, scorpions etc), and especially on faces, necks, etc. No offense to those with tats here, I don’t think this enhances one’s appearance, or even makes a statement of individuality (if that is the person’s intent), since so many other people sporting similar tats. And on already attractive women, at best it seems attempt to gild a lily, or as some have say, put bumper stickers on a Ferarri. But I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so others are free to disagree. I know this has little to to with YECism, but thought I’d toss my 2 cents in, since it was raised, and I guess does relate to the way YECism relies on strict Biblical literalism (but not consistently so).

  8. The URCall initiative is really bombing as you have noted. Since you highlighted their lack of response I’ve been watching myself and the buzz about URCall is non-existant. ICR has tried several times to get more hip and refresh itself but fails over and over again. I almost feel bad for whoever thinks about marketing for them. Just more evidence in my mind that Ken Ham is more and more the monopoly in the creationism business. These launches have to be costly and when they don’t pan out it makes them look even more dysfunctional which in turn probably reduces their donations since they look dead. They are a shell of what they were 15 years ago. I wonder it will go on after Morris the III is done.

    • Websites don’t have to be that costly – they have a That’s a Fact site around somewhere that’s just a wordpress blog with a purchased domain like yours. But I’m sure they add up to an indication of wider rot. Until recently much of that 1% was me, tagging these posts, but I’m going to wait a while before I do any more. I’ve noticed recently that they’re only bothering to moderate their comments once a week, so maybe they’re already giving up.

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jason Lisle taking over at some point, if the previous generation retires. If the ICR survives in the long run there will have to be changes.

  9. Oh, yeah, forgot the main reason I commented. URCall has been prompting its followers to hastag #URcall to promote them. I looked on Twitter and 99% of the #s are from URcall themselves. Virtually no response at all

  10. Maybe part of their problem is the name “URcall.” It does nothing to indicate the purpose of the site (mainly, promoting YECism), And tho I’m not up on the latest texting lingo and such, I think when “UR” is used today, it means “You are” more often than “Your.”. At any rate, it may strike many young people as a lame attempt by ICR to be “hip”. I also think ICR went too far in “dumbing down” the video clips. Even many young people are probably insulted or turned off by ICR’s presenting complex arguments and evidence as suggestive little sound bites.

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