The Bible does not hold scoffers in high regard. After a casual bit of research, I found at least 39 references to scoffers, and none of them were positive. That is why I’ve decided the gift I want this season is a scoff-free Christmas. I know, as an opinion writer, this sounds a lot like I doth protest too much.

Years of hard-core scoffing in America have taken a toll … on everyone.

One story I read in the Portland Press Herald this morning floored me. A prominent dentist in our state took his own life after being ostracized from the dental association, on whose board he sat.  According to this account, his offense involved telling the Maine CDC about a position the board was taking on the mandatory vaccination of health care workers without authorization.

Based on this account, the man led an exemplary life and was a pioneer in the field of dentistry, which he’d joined because of his personal commitment to improving the lives of those who are impacted by serious conditions with their teeth and surrounding areas. No one can know all that goes on in a man’s soul, but his final note to his partner said he could not bear the disgrace the incident had wrought.

What this story said to me is that we all need to step back, take a deep breath, and consider what really matters. Scoffing, as an almost ritualistic enterprise in America today, has led us nowhere good. No one can know what impact such an expulsion will have, and that is one reason to ask ourselves how necessary it is to throw someone off the island before doing it.

It is a cultural condition we face today. There’s more than a little hint of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” in the public square today. This reminds that we’ve faced it before, whether in Salem, Massachusetts, or during the Red Scare of the 1950s. Each time the lesson has much to do with our excesses.

According to Rasmussen, nearly two thirds of the country today believes we’re headed in the wrong direction. These are the kind of numbers I used to see in Iraq as the insurgency mounted in 2004-5. In such foul winds, the prudent way to look at each decision is whether it will make things worse. However, denunciation has become not just the fashion of the day, but a controlling instinct:

Has she been vaccinated? Is he a Trump or a Biden supporter? Are they good Christians/Jews/Muslims? Do they share our values?

In this column I’ve inveighed against how all this affects dating, which was a superficial, even glib take. The real stakes are much higher. In ancient times, exile usually meant death. Today in our world of human and technological progress, as well as self-contained bubbles, it may be more survivable for most, but not all.

According the CDC’s “Household Pulse Survey,” 44.7% of those polled admitted to feelings of anxiety, depression and despair during the holidays.  This trend has been on the rise since World War II, meaning the susceptibility to isolation – further inflamed by the after-effects of COVID spikes – and a sense of exclusion is a growing threat to the good cheer and merriment we’d like to associate with the season. Indeed, the very purpose of these holidays can be understood as a conscious or subconscious effort to find light in the darkness.

All the more reason to suppress any societal urges to cast apostates out into the snow, which goes all the way back to George Washington’s sneak attack on the British in Trenton on Christmas Day in 1776.

My favorite Christmas movie is not “Home Alone,” “Love Actually” or “Elf,” but rather “Silent Night” – the 2002 production (as opposed to the more recent horror flick). In it, warring sides during the Battle of the Bulge put down their guns for one day to approximate peace, and celebrate together even though they are bitter enemies. It is powerful precisely because there are things worse than scoffing.

This week may offer the year’s very best opportunity to put aside scorn and derision and find one person who may be wilting in the dark. It will take years to strengthen again the often-degraded national fabric. But in this season, it is worth acting “as if,” even if it is only to see what will happen.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.