Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Thoughts on EFY

I ran across a post about "How EFY Promotes Immodesty." Now I have a strong dislike for bathos and sentimentality.  I grew up in trailerparks and below the poverty line and definitely on the wrong end of most social divides.  But I am aware that -- as pointed out in -- that the Church is providing financial support for attendance at EFY in Europe and the United States.  I'm also aware that the policy in question being attacked by the OP was, as noted by Ardis " that provision in the EFY brochure was intended to ban the grungy, slovenly, deliberately disreputable clothing that fashion sometimes dictates for teens, not the neatly mended but well worn clothing that a lot of us have to wear."

The commentary on the post, other than Naismith, (and, of course, Ardis), turned mostly into a hostile attack on the EFY program as some sort of dividing line between rich and poor, a modern return to the full panoply of sins that brought down the Nephites in the Book of Mormon, with comments such as "If EFY is so important and essential, why isn’t it part of the church program worldwide" pretty much summing it up.

Of course, as my initial link to and the post on EFY points out, EFY is becoming part of the Church program worldwide and so I pointed that out, and pointed out that official budgetary support for those of modest means would have made the original post a bit more accurate -- after all, the post was claiming that EFY made people immodest in that it was for the proud and uplifted and those of great financial means when the truth was different.

The response to my making that point was for the comments to be closed.

Which occurred just as I was about to do a longer comment on the entire thread, post and comments.

So, are there elements about EFY that natively rub me the wrong way.  Of course.

But does a prohibition on grunge look clothing, in the context of the program as administered, really result so that "the EFY dress standards have unfortunately missed the mark on being “modest” in the older sense of “humble or unpretentious."

I don't think so.

Part of the problem is that it is hard to complain.  The original post may very well have meant that because the intent of the guideline was not properly framed and footnoted, it could be misunderstood, with bad results.  Further, like many posts, it could have been a quick throwaway observation.  But getting comments closed on me, which is generally considered a slap in the face -- "with you, the comments have lost all relevance" -- struck me wrong.

But what is the taxonomy of complaints?

  1. Legitimate -- something is wrong here and it has surfaced again, there is a need for change.  Often presented with a solution (for example, at law school, I found out after graduation that there was a group that was typing up cheat sheets in the same color as the scratch paper and carrying them into tests with their typewriters.  I pointed that out to the law school with the observation that if they just changed the color of the scratch paper from time to time the cheat sheets would suddenly become obvious).
  2. Compulsive mental illness -- rarer than you would think, but much to easy to have a complaint sound like the writer has obsessive compulsive disorder triggered by something.  The "I encountered xyz and thereafter cried for days, and every time I think about it I am swallowed up in angst" type of complaint shows up a lot in dealing with mentally ill people (who every leader ends up encountering).  To be heard it helps to avoid that pattern.
  3. Compulsive snarkers.  People who are just constant nitpickers. In any high priest group you usually have a couple, often entertaining with good hearts.  Give you the shirt off their backs, and note that you aren't wearing it right. ;)
  4. Thematic.  People who have adopted a cause, and thereafter have a stream of advice and complaints that circle around that as a theme.  E.g. "everything would be fine in the Church if we were all just Republicans (or Democrats or Feminists or Vegetarians or ...)."  Sometimes funny (nothing like someone who feels cocoa should be added to the Word of Wisdom, or that only whole grain bread is appropriate for man to eat and who tries to tie everything into that theme.  Their response to the EFY thread would be to state that you could solve all the EFY problems by just using whole wheat flour in every food served).
  5. People in pain.  Some people complain out of their pain, which is often rubbed wrong by many things.
  6. People looking for an excuse to analyze and talk about something (hmm, that could well apply to this post and the one I am discussing as well).  Nothing bad in that, but nothing that cries out for anyone to take them seriously or to treat what they say as a real complaint that requires a response.
  7. Bullies, who are using a complaint as an excuse to try and push people around.  
You can see the problem.  There are a chorus of reasons people complain.  For those who hear complaints it can drown out the legitimate complaints.  I've written about "on being heard" -- on complaining so that someone hears what you are saying.

Anyway, I don't have any complaints about EFY that I feel are worth the effort of being heard.  I've seen it do a great deal of good.  So. Yes.  I know poverty, I've lived it, I've been there. Yes, I don't like schmaltz.  Do I think it promotes immodesty -- given the full context?  No.  As a result, do I think my comments showed that the topic was exhausted and that there was nothing useful to say?  Nope.  I think the comments I made actually reflected why the OP was off course and should have been the beginning of a real discussion.

So, this post, which I don't expect to cause any changes. Especially since I'm on vacation, and the down time elements where I have (a) internet access and (b) time to use it, are both probably coming to an end.   

For comparison:


Stephen said...

BTW, because of a persistent troll, I have comment approval turned on. Because I'm on vacation, in and out of cell phone range and without a consistent computer, comments will be slow to post for a week or so.

On the other hand, we do have house guests, to the old fashioned method of dropping a note off at the house will eventually reach me. ;)

Paul said...

Great post. Great thoughts. I have to think about what kind of complainer I am. (To much of one, my wife would say...)