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Tuesday, December 18, 2018  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Paul Turner: Doubling down on grace could be a new Spokane-inspired Thanksgiving tradition

Two people join hands in prayer before Thanksgiving Day in this file photo. (Holly Pickett / The Spokesman-Review)
Two people join hands in prayer before Thanksgiving Day in this file photo. (Holly Pickett / The Spokesman-Review)

It has become popular in recent years to name Thanksgiving as one’s favorite holiday.

And why not? The occasion has a lot going for it.

Thanksgiving is openly inclusive. Your religion is irrelevant when it comes to pumpkin pie and cranberries.

Prefer burritos or pad Thai? Go for it.

The holiday invites us to at least aspire to be mindful of those past and present who have lifted us up.

While often a family-focused gathering, Thanksgiving sometimes features invited guests who are far from home and away from their own relations.

“No one should be alone on Thanksgiving,” said countless Americans who admire our country most when our arms reach out.

You could draw up your own list. But one thing commending Thanksgiving is the fact it has been spared the politicizing and cultural baggage that beset Christmas.

Well, mostly. You see, there’s this Thanksgiving tradition called saying grace before the meal. That’s where the celebration sometimes goes off the rails.

Most people offering the blessing do a decent job of staying on point. At least in my experience. They are sincere and focused on gratitude.

But every once in a while, the person saying grace decides to launch into some strident oratory that’s more like an editorial than a prayer.

That can cause hard feelings around the table.

That’s why today I am proposing a solution: The Premeal Grace Rebuttal.

When it comes time to select the person who will offer the Thanksgiving blessing, someone else can also be designated to deliver a dissenting opinion.

It would not have to be long or rancorous. But if the person saying grace decides to stray into partisan territory, the prescheduled rebuttal would allow everyone at the table to feel that there had at least been a healthy airing of competing viewpoints.

This could become a Spokane thing. And, like Father’s Day, the rest of the country might soon wish to emulate us.

Just imagine. At Thanksgiving gatherings from Oakland to Orlando, someone could say, “Susan, if you would say grace, and Ethan, if you would like to provide the Spokane rebuttal.”

Perhaps this contemplative context could establish a semi-civil tone that might keep the discourse relatively calm during dinner. It would, at a minimum, remind the person saying grace that there’s a chance not everyone shares his or her opinions and attitudes.

Here, I’ll show you how this could work.

Suppose the person saying grace saw fit, in listing things for which to be thankful, to include a certain election result. When it came time for the dissenting grace, the person delivering the rebuttal could say …

“I would like to thank our benighted host for this fine fare and remind him that though I pray his dishonest, belligerent, know-nothing brand of politics is soon erased from the national consciousness, I regard him as a fine fellow desperately in need of heavenly guidance. Amen.”

Or imagine if the WSU fan saying grace managed to devote a portion of her prayer to the Apple Cup. The individual at the table charged with offering the rebuttal might know just what to say.

“Apart from the simple fact that the inclusion of sports in the holiday prayer degrades the blessing, I would just like to point out that as a graduate of the University of Washington and a proud Husky alum, I find Bettina’s ‘Go, Cougs!’ exhortation inappropriate and an utter waste of time because the Lord has decreed that my Dawgs are going to take those overrated bumpkins apart.”

The rebuttal to the premeal prayer could even take the form of a plea for equal time from an atheist.

“Thank you, Jerry. As always, your pious remarks directed to a mythical man in the sky caused me to reflect on the strange nature of religious faith and its relation to debates about gravy. But though I am not a believer, as you all know, I do cherish you people and am pleased once again to be in your easily duped company.”

But the rebuttal would not even have to take the form of disagreement. Nothing says it would have to resemble that old “60 Minutes” feature, “Point/Counterpoint.”

The person saying the follow-up grace could nod and essentially second the motion:

“I would just like to double down on what Howard said. Except maybe for the part about scooters downtown.”

Over at the children’s table? Well, that’s another story altogether.

Contact the writer at srpaulturner@gmail.com.


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