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Saying Grace at Thanksgiving? Pray There's a Republican at the Table

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Talk about grace under pressure. As families and loved ones gather around the table on Thursday for one of the most beloved rituals of the national religion -- that would be Thanksgiving, the Norman Rockwell version -- all eyes will be on the person designated to lead the diners in giving thanks, with God being the traditional object of the praise.

If you are a Republican, chances are good that you will take up the task with a glad heart and a practiced tongue. If you are a Democrat, you may want to pray -- for perhaps the first time in your life -- that there's a Republican at the table.

That's because there are few other behaviors that so neatly cleave the body politic in half than the habit of saying grace before meals -- and there are few other behaviors that so clearly telegraph your partisan preference.

According to David Campbell and Robert Putnam, authors of "American Grace: How Religion Divides And Unites Us," a sweeping new survey of faith in the United States, 44 percent of Americans report saying grace or a similar blessing almost every day before eating while 46 percent almost never say it. There is hardly any middle ground on this issue, and, they write, "few things about a person correspond as tightly to partisanship as saying grace."

"The more often you say grace, the more likely you are to find a home in the Republican Party, and the less likely you are to identify with the Democrats," Campbell and Putnam write.

So why is that the case?

The short answer, not surprisingly, is abortion and homosexuality, the hot-button issues that drive so much political coverage and religious behavior, and the issues that have driven Americans into two separate camps on personal devotions like saying grace before meals.

As Campbell explained in an interview as he prepared for Thanksgiving with his family (where he or someone will be saying grace) people with a conservative view of abortion and homosexuality tend to be more traditionally religious, and their beliefs often guide their choices at the polls.

As a result, there is nothing else today that unites religious voters -- and identifies them as Republicans -- more than their opposition to abortion and homosexuality, whereas a few decades ago religious behaviors between Democrats and Republicans were more or less identical. In the research conducted by Campbell and Putnam, issues like the death penalty, immigration, foreign policy and protecting civil liberties were not even close to indicating how someone would vote the way abortion and homosexuality are.

Campbell cautions that saying grace does not necessarily correlate to churchgoing, as many people who attend church do not regularly give thanks before meals.

The authors speculate that this is because churchgoing has a "social desirability" factor -- that folks like to be seen going to services -- that does not necessarily carry over into their private devotions. Saying grace, however, is a strong a marker of your personal religiosity, and of your political affiliation. It's about a "Grace Gap" more than a "God Gap."

Campbell also warns that he and Putnam are not claiming a "causal relationship" between saying grace and voting Republican. "It's not saying grace that makes you a Republican," he said.

And there are exceptions to the rule, notably African-Americans, 85 percent of whom say grace daily -- about the same rate that votes Democratic. Their percentage of saying grace is far higher than even that of Mormons and evangelicals; the latter clock in at 58 percent

Lawrence A. Mamiya, a professor of religion and Africana studies at Vassar College and co-author of "The Black Church in the African American Experience," told Religion News Service that offering thanks before meals is consistent with a community bound by a history of faith and hope.

"The whole point is to acknowledge something greater than themselves," Mamiya told RNS. "Even during slavery it was the belief in God that saved blacks from being utterly dehumanized."

Bottom line: don't try to enlist your unrepentant Democratic uncle into saying grace over the Thanksgiving turkey -- it's not likely to convert him to deeper religious practice or more conservative voting habits.

Besides, odds are he's out of practice and could well make a hash of things even before carving the bird.

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88 Comments

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icehappycamper

That's funny, because when I say grace before a meal abortion and homosexuality are the furthest topics from my mind. It's about being thankful for what we have. Not everybody politicizes every topic the way liberals do. Sometimes things are just what they seem to be; people pray to let God know that they are thankful.

November 26 2010 at 12:08 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply
dover2483

A Democratic vote is a vote to end precious life! Scripture does not, never has, nor ever will condone this massacre of innocents! Shame on us America! And shame on those who helped in the murder of these millions by voting for people who do support it! Not saying Democrats aren't Christian, but if you only vote for one reason, this is the one issue that cannot be overlooked by a follower of Christ!

November 26 2010 at 2:37 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to dover2483's comment
pizzmoe

Many Republicans voted for war. That can certainly end precious life.

November 26 2010 at 2:28 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
lillyc200

many republicans vote for the death penalty

December 06 2010 at 2:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JohnR

"The more often you say grace, the more likely you are to find a home in the Republican Party, and the less likely you are to identify with the Democrats," Campbell and Putnam write. Please give me a break. I say grace Every Day and Every Meal, and I am a Democrat--and a Christian.

November 26 2010 at 12:17 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
tyrebitre

David, I NEVER pray that there is a Republican at my table.

November 25 2010 at 9:23 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
msmichlee

This has to be the most rediculous posting I have ever seen. If the facts are that the republicans pray more or that they are more religous than democrats then they would be praying for forgiveness. I don't know where you people come up with some much crap. It is common knowledge that democrats are more faith based and more acceptable than republicans would ever dream of.

November 25 2010 at 8:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to msmichlee's comment
rturk58645

I agree! Perhaps the writer had nothing better to do with his time?

November 25 2010 at 9:09 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Kurt

There are so called people who claim they are Christian that will ignore a homeless person asking for help, and if one shwed up on the door steps of their church will throw them out. Listen to the Outlaws prayer by Johnny Paycheck and you will know what I mean.

November 25 2010 at 8:53 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Kurt's comment
tenderlies1

That was a Great song and he was so right in that one

November 25 2010 at 9:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JohnR

On the Judgment day, Christ will separate the nations into two groups, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. ... Then the King will say to those on His left and say, 'away with you, cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his demons. For I was hungry and thirsty, and you didn't give me anything to eat or drink. ... I was naked, but you gave me no clothing. I was sick and in prison, but you didn't visit me.' Then, they will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry, or thirsty, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and not help You?' And He will answer, 'I assure you, any time you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you refused to help Me.' And, these will go into eternal punishment, while the righteous will go into eternal life."

November 26 2010 at 12:28 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
Sparcman

We must ask ourselves, are we a better country now that we have ripped the Ten Commandments from our schools? Is America prospering now that many have turned our backs on God? How long will we allow political correctness to rule our lives and ruin our country? Simply put, it is not a Republican or Democrat issue. We must stand up and speak out in favor of God and America.

November 25 2010 at 8:43 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
mmhamp@aol.com

In the Bible, Jesus says to Peter that he is a little rock, but that He, Jesus is the Big Rock & on that Big Rock He will build His church & the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. This church is not a certain denomination, but a spiritual BODY of BELIEVERS. The Bible also says the common man can not understand the things of GOD, because they are spiritualy decerned. One must humbly submit his spirit to God and invite His spirit to come in & when this takes place, man begins to understand the things of God, & the Bible becomes more complete in one's thinking.Being a Christian is not political, & is open to anyone who will open himself up to God's spirit. This kind of person will not "say a prayer, but will PRAY a prayer."

November 25 2010 at 8:40 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
K W Joseph

dont know how these writer reach these rediculous conclusion. i am a democrat will ever remain one, will never vote for a republican. i am 59 going church every week since age sixteen and say grace over every meal, read the bible daily

November 25 2010 at 8:38 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
mullermugs32

Another factor for not saying Grace on regular basis. The lost art of regular family dinners with members at one table, contributed by overworked parents, divorces, children's sports. Campbell correctly points out "social desirability" factor which is totally correct. Many do use religion as an outward appearance for acceptability, with little real devotion. The political aspect does have some merit.What type of people usually refute religion? Those who do not want to accept a higher moral standard or assume personal responsibility for their actions in a blind attempt to justify immoral actions. In plain English, many more are Democrats, not all.

November 25 2010 at 7:57 PM Report abuse +10 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to mullermugs32's comment
tenderlies1

I use to be a church addict. I believe based on Religious Faith that it was my duty to be there. Over the years I saw corruption in the Church. People would side up and remove leaders of the church over silly things like playing a game of cards and call it a sin. Deacons would commit crimes and elders take money from the funds and yet show up every Sunday for Church Servicies. People often use Religion to fool people into thinking they are honest while they are stealing everything they can get their hands on, Yes thats a Republican

November 25 2010 at 8:26 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
JohnR

Muller, Even if you eat alone, you can say grace for yourself, thanking Him for what you have. And, tenderlies, we are admonished by Paul to always attend church, so we can support each other, and pray for each other. Church is not for the perfect, but for the imperfect. If you don't like what you see in your church, don't stay home, but find another one. My wife and I just did that, and are now happy in our new church.

November 26 2010 at 12:32 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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