24 May 2006

Announcing: The "Sospel"!

Vegetarians have put an unbelievable amount of time, resources, and expertise into developing soy-based products to replace animal-based foods. If a person wants to switch to a vegetarian diet, now they can do so without giving up many--or any--of their favorite dishes.

Consider this partial list of soy-based stand-ins:

Milk . . . Silk
Hot Dog . . . Smartdog
Hamburger . . . Garden Burger
Turkey . . . Tofurkey
Mayonnaise . . . Nayonaise

With all this soy substitution, the vegetarians appear to be "bringing the mountain to Muhammad," leaving meat-eaters with fewer and fewer excuses to maintain their "carnivorous, cruel, and unhealthy lifestyles."

The problem is that this sales pitch isn't compelling. Vegetarians have a product that can sell itself: Sweet, juicy fruit; crisp green salads and vegetables; a variety of grains, each with a unique texture and flavor ranging from earthy to sweet to salty; beans and nuts to leave one feeling "full"; mushrooms to "get your umami going"; pasta, pasta, pasta! Oh, I could go on and on!

Instead of focusing on the delicious menu they have to offer, some vegetarians focus on making meat counterfeits. They choose not to market health and great taste, but opt for the "Ditch the meat but not the heartburn" propaganda.

But this blog isn't about dietary choices. Rather, I would like to use the above as an analogy for how the Gospel is sometimes presented. Following the lead of my soy-loving predecessors, I will call this version of the Gospel the "Sospel." Here are a few ways I have witnessed church members, including myself, embrace the Sospel:

Playing down the differences between Mormons and other Christians.
Minimizing the level of commitment that the Church really asks of its members.
Planning activities for the youth that mimic or are identical to ones they could find outside the Church.
Replacing plain and precious testimony with excellent and rigorous scholarship.

I will admit that the above are not obligatorily Sospel messages. Nevertheless, they often are, and I see the same problem with this approach that exists with meat-flavored soy: the focus is all wrong. Friends, coworkers, converts, and children are ultimately left unimpressed by the Sospel. The fruits of the Sospel, following the same order as above, are:

"There's nothing special about the Mormon Church."
"Becoming a Mormon will not create any big changes in my routine."
"I go to church because it's fun."
"I would like to bear my testimony: I know that the Church is not demonstrably untrue."

The Sospel attempts godliness, but withholds commitment and conviction. The result is an a la carte menu of half-truths that leave the recipient spiritually unimpressed and unchanged. The ease of living the Sospel parallels the ease of leaving the Sospel.

Can you think of other examples of the Sospel?
How do you avoid the Sospel?
How do you know if you are preaching or living the Sospel?
How many converts who leave the Church were actually converted to the Sospel and not the Gospel?


Ben S. said...

You're post title triggered some random thoughts. "What in the world can he be talking about?!" Then I googled, and realized that Sospel was the name of a town I spent several hours in.

Anonymous said...

hi. i've just googled sospel, looking for someone who lives in the village - ERIC SIRI ... a remote chance - anyone know how i can contact him??!!!

Anonymous said...

haha. i really like what you said. you connected you connected what you wanted to say in a funny and entertaining way. you should be a writer :)