Talk about a word study. Here's one straight from the court room right into our living rooms. As a noun, dating from the 1570's, "matter of fact" involved a legal inquiry concerned with the truth or falsehood of alleged facts. Simply speaking, it was establishing what was a "matter of fact" rather than a matter of law. There's evidence from 1712 that matter-of-fact (notice the hyphens) became an adjective with a more casual meaning, something in the prosaic or unimaginative category. Today it's slang for something ordinary or common place, the shrug of facts that are accepted as true, perhaps unarguable, but with little import in our lives. You know, things like the sanctity of human life, the authority of law enforcement, the brilliance of the American system of government, the tenets of our faith, and even our love for one another. We accept them as matters-of-fact but with a shrug. Big deal. Right? Everybody knows that. Of course I love 'ya. It's what I say when I walk out the door everyday.
It's one of the factors that has thrown so many of our citizens into the fake news frenzy that has almost rendered the fourth estate obsolete in the United States. As a matter-of-fact, however, they are free to print doubtful news because the First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees the freedom of the press. As a matter-of-fact there are limits in the application of the freedom of the press. But, shrug, that doesn't apply to me because i don't work for the press. i only read the news and I can accept it or reject it as I like. As a matter-of-fact, I don't know all that much about the Constitution, the freedoms derived thereof, or the line items of my personal faith anyway. So, shrug, it's true, as a matter-of-fact.
Let's turn this matter of fact thing into my study for a moment. Suddenly the spiritual landscape of the United States of America is trending downward. Most of the research organizations have been tracking the shift from a Judeo-Christian worldview to more generic, secular belief systems for several decades now. Many of the values, ideals, and central beliefs that have guided our nation have yielded to softer versions defined not by an absolute measure of truth but by truth according to me, with 325 million versions, as a matter-of-fact. The core beliefs of Christianity, which 62% of the population affirms as their religious preference, are merely matter-of-fact to most of them. It's the new denomination of nominal Christians, as a matter-of-fact.
A Christian worldview has little resonance with such an impassive take on life. Scripture admonishes believers, "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Colossians 3:17, ESV). In my book this ideal brings a sense of passion to every sphere of my personal life. What I do and how I live are means of being salt and light in this world, which makes everything more important than a shrug. Shrugging off the impotence of Washington, the reign of terror across the land, the changing ethical climate of the nation, an anemic church, redefinition of the family , and so many other key moral indicators just doesn't fit the influential nature of Christian faith.
A matter-of-fact shrug is little more than a new apathy. You know the drill, a detachment or distance from troubling issues until they come into my house. Each day I'm reminded of Solomon's wisdom when he wrote, "Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys" (Proverbs 18:9, ESV). My shrug in any sphere of life is a contributing factor to the slippage that is so visible in the world around us.
The Apostle Paul wrote it: "Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord" (Romans 12:11, ESV). This leaves little room for a matter-of-fact shrug about my influence in this fast and changing world.
As a matter-of-fact.
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