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Prompted by the strident and polarizing rhetoric of political campaigns, conversation with friends this past week surfaced the lack of comity in our nation’s social and political discourse.

With its root in the Latin word for friendly comity means the cordial recognition of the other person and/or the other person’s position. In international relations comity acknowledges the sovereignty of another country and its representatives. It is also associated with decorum, the ground rules for debating differing positions and points of view.

Comity is under siege today. One symptom is the rebellion against compromise, which for some means meeting in the middle to solve problems; to others it connotes capitulation. Political correctness is another challenge to comity. Embraced by some to foster inclusiveness, it is vilified by others who feel muzzled by a progressive agenda.

Each year at this season the questions surrounding compromise and political correctness surface in another way. Why can’t all of us just greet each other with Merry Christmas? After all, the prevalent religion in this country is Christianity.

As with our politics our response to that question relates to our world view. Do we just need to get back to the ways that served us well in the past when life was simpler? Or, do we need to learn how to integrate the inevitable changes coming our way, including the influx of a growing number of people from diverse cultures, the requirements of justice at home and abroad and the environmental threats to the sustainability of our land, water and food?

Resurrecting comity may help us bridge our divides. After all, the baby whose birth Christians celebrate called us to live lives of love and reconciliation. The way we treat each other is the medium of the message.