Leaving a Godly Heritage

Leaving a Godly Heritage

How do we form our children in the faith and bestow a Godly heritage upon them? Let us turn to God’s Word for inspiration and instruction.

Sons are a heritage from the Lord
Children are a reward from Him.
~ Psalm 127:3 (NIV)

What does leaving a Godly heritage look like? What does it mean ‘to leave a Godly heritage?’

Heritage can relate to many things, but for our purpose, we will use the Oxford Dictionary definition, which in part states: Heritage is “valued qualities and cultural traditions that have been passed down from previous generations.”

The instructions written by Asaph in the 78th Psalm, especially verses 5-7, encapsulate how ‘heritage’ can be a living experience to perpetuate the teachings of our God and His achievements. It is written:

He decreed statutes for Jacob, and established the law in Israel,
which He commanded our forefathers to teach to their children,
so that the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God
and not forget His deeds but would keep His commands.’

The Big Question

Is this happening in your home and the homes of the families involved in the church? How do we teach and nurture our heritage? Do we pass on all we know about our Lord to our children and teach and encourage them to teach their children?

The family home is the most crucial and important learning environment for our children. It is here, in their early formative years, where the child will be most influenced — for better or for worse. They will learn (or not) to bond with those around them.

Children learn language, positive and negative behaviour, and how to interact with others in the home. Modern research confirms that the first five years of a child’s life are the most crucial and vital time to instil good attitudes and create healthy habits, especially regarding their spiritual growth and understanding.

Research by the noted developmental psychologist and anthropologist at Oxford University, Justin L Barret, about the value of religious faith, has found that we are all predisposed to believe in God from birth. This would be consistent with the Scripture in Ecclesiastes 3:11 —

He has also set eternity in the hearts of men….”

To further explore what it means to leave a Godly heritage, let us now consider the instructions given to Moses before the Israelites went into the Promised Land. Consider how these instructions relate to us today.

My conviction is that these Scriptures set out God’s plan for families and demonstrate how to impart the parents’ faith to their children. I use the word to impart the parent’s faith, as opposed to imposing their faith on their children. The home is the place where children should be introduced to the Lord of Creation and the Saviour of the World.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is known as the Shema (pronounced “Shem-ar”) and is worthy of our examination. These instructions for the family were given to Moses to be passed on. It is considered by devout Jews as the most critical and significant portion of the book of Deuteronomy.

Jewish children are taught this as a prayer. Devout Jews recite it three times a day. Each Friday evening, as the Sabbath begins, in Jewish homes around the world, the father, and sometimes the mother, lay hands on the children’s heads and pray for them.

Deuteronomy 6:4–9  (NIV)

Verse 4

“Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one.”

‘You shall have no other gods before Me’, states the First Commandment. The land into which the Jews were going was a land with a multitude of gods. Sadly, this is the same as the society our children find themselves in today. We have the answers to help them make the right decisions.

Verse 5

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

An expert in the law tested Jesus with a question. “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus quoted this Scripture in Matthew 22:37. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind (might).”

Jesus then went on to say in verses 38-40, “This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” 

Our children are in desperate need of godly role models. This is a great opportunity for parents, teachers, uncles, aunties and grandparents to be those role models who demonstrate that they love the Lord with all their hearts, all their souls and all their minds.

THOUGHT: If I expect my children to pray, then they need to see me praying.

If I expect my children to love the Word of God, they need to see that in me.

If I expect my children to love the Lord their God with all their hearts, with all their souls and with all their minds, guess where they will be looking?

Verse 6

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.”

Notice that this is a commandment, not just any ordinary instruction. Dare I say, not unlike the well-known Ten Commandments!  The Lord tells us these words are to be in our hearts. These are not just for head knowledge, but are to be an outward demonstration and expression of our inner beliefs and convictions.

Verse 7

“Impress them on your children.
Talk about them when you sit at home
and when you walk along the road,
when you lie down and when you get up.”

The word used to “impress” means to engrave. Not merely talking but living it out, which is much harder. We do this to impart our faith, as opposed to imposing our faith on our children. If as parents we use the “do what I say and not what I do” line, it will not work in the long term.

Whom to impress — Our children

What to impress — The Word of God

Where to impress — Walking, lying down, getting up, and sitting down or,
use every appropriate and suitable opportunity.

When to impress — All the time.

This is a “lifestyle” that should be evident in our everyday life.

Verse 8

“Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”

It is always a joy when you see young people wearing the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets or something similar, and T-shirts that have a Christian message. Not only are these reminders important for our children who are feeling comfortable with a faith that is their own, but we also need to be reminded of the word of God. Hopefully, as they wear these obviously Christian items, they will also become competent in articulating their beliefs.

Verse 9

“Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”

It is possible to have various reminders, such as Scriptures around the house and other Christian symbols, such as the Nativity scene during the Christmas season. We should endeavour to give our children books, games and items that will strengthen their faith and not cause them to stumble. These practices should begin when the child is very young.

Challenge: To take God’s commandments seriously.

What are the consequences of ignoring God’s instruction for our families?

Let us look at what happened to the Jewish nation when they ignored God’s instructions.

About 120-150 years after entering the Promised Land and experiencing God’s grace, we read these words.

Judges 2:8-11

Verse 8

“Joshua son of Nun died, the servant of the Lord died at the age of one hundred and ten.”

Verse 9

“And they buried him in the land of his inheritance,
at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.”

The influence of the godly men and women has now passed away.

Verse 10

After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers,
another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord
nor what He had done for Israel
.

After all the wonderful blessings of God, a WHOLE generation grew up who not only did not know the Lord but did not know the awesome things God had done for Israel!

Verse 11

Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baal.

Many of this generation do not know the Lord nor the incredible things He has done in the development of our great nation, Australia, or for that matter, Western civilisation.

That generation did not understand or did not know how to live in a Godly manner. They pursued a destructive and flawed lifestyle with dire consequences. Knowledge of a Godly heritage was not successfully taught or adopted.

Tragically, both of these situations happen too often in Australia and the Western world today.

What heritage will you offer your children to receive and adopt as a lifestyle?

THOUGHT: How seriously do we take God’s instructions about teaching our children?

Suggested reading

  • George Barna, “Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions”
  • Ted Baehr and Pat Boone, “The Culture-Wise Family”
  • Mark Griffiths, “One Generation from Extinction”

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Photo by Vlada Karpovich.

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Helen Cadbury: Founding Member of the Pocket Testament League

Formed by a faithful family and married to a devout husband, Helen Cadbury went on to share the Word of God through the Pocket Testament League, which continues its salvific work today.

Helen CadburyHelen was only twelve when she went with her father, Richard Cadbury, and sat at the back of a hall watching volunteers talking with the people coming in from the local neighbourhood. Some of the people coming in looked poor and even hungry, and some, sadly, were affected by alcohol.

Richard cared very much for poor people and did a lot to help them. He had built a big hall for just this purpose. He and fellow Christians invited men, women and children from the neighbourhood to come and, depending on the difficulty of their circumstances, they might be given a meal or some clothes. While he showed them in this practical way what the love of God looked like, visitors could also hear about the love of God.

On this day, Helen listened as the preacher finished explaining how people, through trusting in Jesus and what he had done on the cross, could have their sins forgiven and have a good relationship with God. His words moved Helen, and she decided that day that Jesus’ love was for her, too.

Helen’s family had strong roots in the Christian faith. Her grandfather, John Cadbury, was also already well-known as the founder of the Cadbury cocoa and chocolate company in Birmingham. It was the faith of the members of the Cadbury family that drove them to care about the welfare of those who worked for them, and for underprivileged people in their community.

Childhood Faith

Helen Cadbury PTLAt school, Helen kept a Bible in her desk. At break times, she liked to bring her Bible out to show other girls verses about how to become a Christian and how God would want them to live. But it wasn’t easy carrying a Bible around in the playground, so Helen and her Christian friends had pockets made in their dresses for carrying a Bible or a New Testament. These girls shared a keen interest in sharing their faith with their friends at school. By 1893, when Helen was 16, the group had become known as the ‘Pocket Testament League’ and had a membership of 60 girls.

Helen Cadbury AlexanderAs Helen grew up into a young lady, the enthusiasm she had for her faith started to wane. Helen went to college and there learned different ideas and opinions about Christianity. Many of her college lecturers made anti-God statements, and this caused Helen to have serious doubts about whether the whole Bible was the true word of God.

However, all that changed after her father’s death. Helen began helping her mother back at the big hall her father had built where she had first put her trust in God. Helen again saw the love of God being lived out before her eyes through her mother and the others who were helping the poor. Gradually, her faith returned to what she had believed as a schoolgirl.

Sharing the Word

In the years that followed, Helen married the famous evangelist and song leader, Charles Alexander. Together with some other evangelists, they brought ‘The Pocket Testament League’ back to life. It is estimated that over 100 million portions of Scripture have been distributed by the Pocket Testament League — and it’s still going strong today!

The Pocket Testament League has produced many stories about people whose lives were wonderfully transformed through reading the Bible. One such story is of Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese commander who led the attacks on Pearl Harbor and Darwin but found faith in God and forgiveness after the war was over, which you can read about here at Did You Know Education.

Many people across the world have become followers of Jesus, all because a young girl was determined to share her faith with others and help those in need.

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By Jordan Jamieson. Originally published at Did You Know? Education. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio.

Thank the Source

Helen Cadbury: Founding Member of the Pocket Testament League

Helen Cadbury: Founding Member of the Pocket Testament League

Formed by a faithful family and married to a devout husband, Helen Cadbury went on to share the Word of God through the Pocket Testament League, which continues its salvific work today.

Helen CadburyHelen was only twelve when she went with her father, Richard Cadbury, and sat at the back of a hall watching volunteers talking with the people coming in from the local neighbourhood. Some of the people coming in looked poor and even hungry, and some, sadly, were affected by alcohol.

Richard cared very much for poor people and did a lot to help them. He had built a big hall for just this purpose. He and fellow Christians invited men, women and children from the neighbourhood to come and, depending on the difficulty of their circumstances, they might be given a meal or some clothes. While he showed them in this practical way what the love of God looked like, visitors could also hear about the love of God.

On this day, Helen listened as the preacher finished explaining how people, through trusting in Jesus and what he had done on the cross, could have their sins forgiven and have a good relationship with God. His words moved Helen, and she decided that day that Jesus’ love was for her, too.

Helen’s family had strong roots in the Christian faith. Her grandfather, John Cadbury, was also already well-known as the founder of the Cadbury cocoa and chocolate company in Birmingham. It was the faith of the members of the Cadbury family that drove them to care about the welfare of those who worked for them, and for underprivileged people in their community.

Childhood Faith

Helen Cadbury PTLAt school, Helen kept a Bible in her desk. At break times, she liked to bring her Bible out to show other girls verses about how to become a Christian and how God would want them to live. But it wasn’t easy carrying a Bible around in the playground, so Helen and her Christian friends had pockets made in their dresses for carrying a Bible or a New Testament. These girls shared a keen interest in sharing their faith with their friends at school. By 1893, when Helen was 16, the group had become known as the ‘Pocket Testament League’ and had a membership of 60 girls.

Helen Cadbury AlexanderAs Helen grew up into a young lady, the enthusiasm she had for her faith started to wane. Helen went to college and there learned different ideas and opinions about Christianity. Many of her college lecturers made anti-God statements, and this caused Helen to have serious doubts about whether the whole Bible was the true word of God.

However, all that changed after her father’s death. Helen began helping her mother back at the big hall her father had built where she had first put her trust in God. Helen again saw the love of God being lived out before her eyes through her mother and the others who were helping the poor. Gradually, her faith returned to what she had believed as a schoolgirl.

Sharing the Word

In the years that followed, Helen married the famous evangelist and song leader, Charles Alexander. Together with some other evangelists, they brought ‘The Pocket Testament League’ back to life. It is estimated that over 100 million portions of Scripture have been distributed by the Pocket Testament League — and it’s still going strong today!

The Pocket Testament League has produced many stories about people whose lives were wonderfully transformed through reading the Bible. One such story is of Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese commander who led the attacks on Pearl Harbor and Darwin but found faith in God and forgiveness after the war was over, which you can read about here at Did You Know Education.

Many people across the world have become followers of Jesus, all because a young girl was determined to share her faith with others and help those in need.

___

By Jordan Jamieson. Originally published at Did You Know? Education. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio.

Thank the Source

Lord Shaftesbury: Protecting the Children

Lord Shaftesbury: Protecting the Children

The Industrial Revolution changed how people lived and worked. Instead of being outdoors on farms, the impoverished children of coal miners were roped into dangerous underground work. Inspired by his Christian faith and values, the British parliamentary member Lord Shaftesbury stood up for the rights of these children, campaigning for laws to protect them from harm.

Think about a newborn baby. When we look at tiny babies, we are immediately struck by their complete and utter helplessness. They depend entirely on adults to give them what they need. And not just babies: children, too, are some of the most vulnerable of all human beings and are totally dependent on the adults around them for their physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

Sadly, not all children have been cared for in this way. And that’s why historical figures like Lord Shaftesbury have needed, at times, to step in and protect children in need.

Terrible Danger

In 1838, there was a terrible accident at the Huskar Colliery (coal mine) in Britain in which, tragically, 26 children died: 15 boys from 7 to 16 years of age, and 11 girls from 8 to 17 years of age. Partly due to this shocking event, the public became increasingly concerned about the use of child labour in coal mines.

Queen Victoria, the British Queen at the time, took a personal interest in the disaster, and other powerful people also called for change.

Until the mid-nineteenth century, it was accepted in Britain that children as young as five years old could be part of the industrial workforce. Change was needed. Between 1840 and 1842, government inspectors visited the Welsh coalfields and spoke to many child miners. These interviews were presented to Parliament as part of The Commission of Enquiry into the State of Children in Employment. This Enquiry revealed the horrific conditions that children worked in.

To the Rescue

Lord Ashley Shaftesbury

Lord Shaftesbury: Anthony Ashley Cooper, “the poor man’s earl”

Lord Shaftesbury, a British Member of Parliament, had been campaigning since 1828 for something to be done about the terrible conditions and injustices that many people were forced to live under at this time.

One of his main concerns was to introduce laws that prohibited the employment of women and children in coal mines. He also wanted the government to provide care for people with mental illness, establish a maximum ten-hour work day for factory workers, and outlaw employing young boys as chimney sweeps.

Coal mines in this period were cramped, poorly ventilated and highly dangerous. There was little attention paid to health and safety. Children were often injured or killed by explosions, by mine roofs falling in, or by being run over by carts.

But what were such little children doing working in mines in the first place?

Beneath the Earth

Children performed a number of important tasks underground. They could be doorkeepers, who operated the ventilation doors to let coal carts through; drammers, who pulled coal carts to and from the coal face; colliers’ helpers, who assisted with the actual coal cutting, usually alongside their fathers or older brothers; or drivers, who led the horses that pulled wagons full of coal along the main roadways underground.

children in minesPhilip Philips, aged 10, from Brace Colliery in Llanelli, was accustomed to the dangers of ladders:

‘I help my brother to cart. I can go down the ladders by myself.
I am not afraid to go down the pit.’

The Government Inspector who interviewed Philip during the Enquiry climbed down these ladders himself — but with difficulty. Unlike Philip, he was afraid of the noise and the heavy pumping rods that were very close to the ladders.

Mary Davis was a ‘pretty little girl’ of 6 years old. The Government Inspector found her fast asleep against a large stone underground in the Plymouth Mines at Merthyr. When she woke up, she said:

‘I went to sleep because my lamp had gone out for want of oil. I was frightened, for someone had stolen my bread and cheese. I think it was the rats.’

child trapperSusan Reece, also 6 years of age and a doorkeeper in the same colliery, said:

‘I have been below six or eight months and I don’t like it much. I come here at six in the morning and leave at six at night. When my lamp goes out, or I am hungry, I run home. I haven’t been hurt yet.’

Crippling

A coal mine was a dangerous place even for adults, so it’s no surprise that many children were badly injured underground. Here are some more quotes from children who worked in the mines at this time:

“Nearly a year ago there was an accident and most of us were burned. I was carried home by a man. It hurt very much because the skin was burnt off my face. I couldn’t work for six months.”
Phillip Phillips, aged 10, Plymouth Mines, Merthyr.

“I got my head crushed a short time since by a piece of roof falling.”
William Skidmore, aged 8, Buttery Hatch Colliery, Mynydd Islwyn.

“… got my legs crushed some time since, which threw me off work some weeks.”
John Reece, aged 14, Hengoed Colliery.

Some children spent up to twelve hours on their own, underground, all alone in the dark. They had little time for school, and even when they could go to school, they were too tired to learn. They were often pale, undernourished and dressed in ragged clothing.

Compelled to Speak

Shaftesbury wanted to do something about this terrible neglect. He had argued in Parliament for some time that new laws were needed to protect children. What was it that prompted Lord Shaftesbury to act on behalf of vulnerable people like this?children in coalmines

He had felt that God was prompting him “to devote whatever advantages he might have bestowed… in the cause of the weak, the helpless, both man and beast, and those who had none to help them.” The Bible teaches Christian believers to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves — and it was this understanding of Jesus’ teachings that led him to take a strong stand against the mistreatment of children, and speak out on their behalf to protect and care for them.

Eventually, these three laws were passed:

  • The 1841 Mines Act: No child under the age of 10 to work underground in a coal mine.
  • The 1847 Ten Hour Act: No child to work more than 10 hours in a day.
  • The 1874 Factory Act: No child under 10 to be employed in a factory.

In 1842, children under the age of 10 (and women) were no longer allowed to work underground. In 1860 the age limit for boy miners was raised to 12, and in 1900 it was raised to 13.

These were improvements at the time, but the continued use of child labour is considered unthinkable in today’s Western society.

Christian Values

In the world Jesus was born into, children, along with women, old men and slaves, were viewed as physically weak burdens on society who had little value in the community. In ancient Greece and Rome, many people even found it acceptable to abandon unwanted children along the roadsides and leave them to die.

But Jesus taught that children were not to be looked down upon, but to be loved and valued.

When Christianity became more active during the ancient Roman era (when Rome ruled most of the known world), the teachings of Jesus became more public and widespread. Jesus’ teachings about children were faithfully followed by the early church. The Christians taught that God cared for children, slaves and women, just as much as He did for men. Some Christians began collecting infants abandoned by their parents and raising them as their own. From the Christian point of view in this ancient time, both children and adults were equal in the kingdom of God.

It is this attitude to children that has driven faithful Christian believers like Lord Shaftesbury — and many others in history — to try to improve the lives of children in need.

These days, we have seen organisations like the United Nations start the Universal Children’s Day. Australia’s own Children’s Week Council of Australia holds the National Children’s Week each year in October to help draw attention to the needs of children and to value them.

And while there are still many places in the world where children’s needs are sadly not met, it is great to be reminded of the work of caring and faithful people like Lord Shaftesbury who, prompted by his belief in the teachings of Jesus, fought to remind adults of their role in nurturing children and providing them with every opportunity to reach their full potential.

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Originally published at Did You Know? Education. Photo: Snopes

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Christians Are a Minority for the First Time In Australian History

Atheists are cheering at the drop in religious affiliation in our nation. However, with Christians becoming a minority, those who have abandoned faith in God have embraced faith in other things — in modern ideologies.

Australian census data released yesterday shows that — for the first time in our nation’s history — Christians are in the minority.

News that just 44% of Australians now identify as Christian — down from 74.6% in 1996 — sent Christianophobes into a frenzy.

“Abandoning God” was trending on social media as atheists danced on Christianity’s grave.

To be fair, the godless needed something to cheer about after Pride Week ended with the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade.

Former journalist Mike Carlton wrote:

Now that “Christians” are a minority group, do you think they’ll stop telling the rest of us how to live?

Does he mean like the LGBTQ+ minority?

Christian minority

Dreadful Consequences

The massive drop in the number of people identifying as Christian coincides with a massive spike in the number of people with mental health issues.

There’s no connection, of course. It’s all pure coincidence.

Yes, we took a sponge to wipe away the entire horizon. And?

Sure, we drank the entire sea. But honestly, it hasn’t affected us.

And it’s true that we unchained the earth from its sun and are now plunging continually — backward, sideward, forward, in all directions; straying through an infinite nothing.

But we categorically deny that has anything at all to do with the fact that mental health is now the nation’s number one health concern. It’s all just random chance, like the universe.

Illogical

Many atheists were unhappy with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting that Australians were “abandoning God”.

You cannot abandon something that never existed, they argued.

‘We are not abandoning God so much as embracing common sense,’ wrote one.

To which I would reply: ‘What is a woman?

You have to love today’s progressive Left. They ridicule Christians for believing in “fairytales” while insisting that men can have periods.

And if you disagree, they’ll destroy you. Hallelujah!

New Religions

While it’s true that Australia is becoming less Christian, it is also true that we are becoming more religious.Bob Dylan

As the Pope of Folk, Bob Dylan, sang:

You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

In other words, our brains have “religion hardware” built in from the factory. Specific religions or ideologies are just the software we choose to run.

Of course, the progressive Left will deny that they are religious, but that’s exactly what you would expect from a state-sanctioned religion. There is no separation of Woke and State.

The absence of divinity makes the progressive Left’s belief system no less religious. Godless Lefties define religion as only those belief systems that subscribe to the idea of a divine being in order to dismiss other religions as mere religions, and make theirs appear to be something greater.

Christian doctrines have simply been replaced by hardline secular ideologies, which are frequently more dogmatic, intolerant, and hostile to non-believers, blasphemers, and apostates.

Modern Taboos and Sacred Cows

These days you are more likely to lose your job for using the wrong pronouns than for using the Lord’s name in vain.

And you are more likely to lose friends and family for failing to get your 18th booster shot than for failing to get baptised.

John AndersonFormer Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, appearing on Sky News last night, made the salient point:

“To those who are dancing on the grave as they think they are of Christianity — what’s the alternative, where is your better way?”

Progressives on Twitter dismissed Mr Anderson as simply uptight.

If only his parents had taken him along to Drag Queen Story Time as a child, he’d be more inclusive and open-minded.

Christianity is in the minority now. The progressive Left is creating a brave new world without the old superstitions that old fuddy-duddies like Mr Anderson would have us cling to.

Forget the Apostle’s Creed and repeat after me: “Trans women are women” and “My body, my choice” and “Black Lives Matter.”

Holy Communion has been replaced by the new sacraments of abortion, and puberty blockers.

Slavery, and coal, are the original sins. Greta Thunberg and George Floyd are the new saints. Police and whites and TERFS are the new devils.

Welcome to Country, carbon offsets, taking a knee and diversity training are to be our penance.

Critical Race Theory is gospel. So are net-zero emissions.

Mainstream media are the priests.

Public schools are the youth groups (which is why progressives don’t want Christian chaplains anywhere near them) and Davos is the Holy City.

Forget blind faith in God. The new religion requires only blind faith in government.

John Lennon’s Imagine is the only religious hymn you ever need sing.

Oh, and if you disagree with any of this, you will be cancelled. It’s kind of like being condemned to hell, except that there is no chance of redemption. Ever. Amen.

As GK Chesterton famously quipped:

“When men stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing; they believe in anything.”

Or as the Apostle Paul put it:

“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served the created things rather than the Creator… their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.”

That Christian belief is now in the minority does not mean Australia is less religious, only that a new religion is taking its place.

With the famous Irish poet William Yeats, many of us look apprehensively at the census results and wonder:

“What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

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Originally published at The James Macpherson Report.
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ACT Discrimination Law “Reforms” Narrow Religious Freedom

ACT Discrimination Law “Reforms” Narrow Religious Freedom

The fresh anti-discrimination legislation in the Australian Capital Territory will reduce religious freedom even further, applying the strictures upon faith-based schools to other religious institutions like hospitals and aged care, and even places of worship or university student societies.

The Australian Capital Territory government has released an Exposure Draft of a Bill to amend that jurisdiction’s Discrimination Act 1991 (“DA”). They have invited public comment by 1 July 2022. As key protections for religious freedom in Australia are often found in “balancing clauses” in discrimination legislation, it is always worth keeping an eye on reforms to these laws. Sadly, these proposed reforms will significantly narrow religious freedom protections in the ACT.

Current ACT Law

The ACT DA already contains some of the narrowest religious freedom protections in the country, after amendments to the Act made in 2018 (which I commented on at the time when they were proposed.) One result of these changes was that the previous freedom of faith-based schools and educational institutions to conduct their activities in accordance with their faith, was greatly reduced.

Under s 32 of the DA as it now stands since 2018 (even before any further changes are made), “religious bodies” other than schools are generally allowed to apply their doctrines and beliefs in decision-making in

(d)     any other act or practice… of a body established for religious purposes, if the act or practice conforms to the doctrines, tenets or beliefs of that religion and is necessary to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of adherents of that religion.

However, this freedom is explicitly not applicable to a “defined act” by a religious body, which is defined in s 32(2) as follows:

(2)     In this section:

“defined act”, by a religious body, means an act or practice in relation to—

(a)     the employment or contracting of a person by the body to work in an educational institution; or

(b)     the admission, treatment or continued enrolment of a person as a student at an educational institution.

There is a provision, s 44, allowing faith-based schools and religious groups providing health care to make employment decisions based on religious belief, “if the duties of the employment or work involve, or would involve, the participation by the employee or worker in the teaching, observance or practice of the relevant religion”.

But this is narrowly drafted and would probably only apply to staff whose job was to actually teach religious studies or run religious services in hospitals. Section 46 allows enrolment and staffing decisions in faith-based schools to be based on religious belief, but only if clearly announced in a formal public policy document.

This means, however, that a faith-based school may not set out a policy requiring staff or students to comply with the moral code required by their religion. For example, where a staff member decides to move in with a de facto partner without being married, this would be contrary to classical Biblical teaching that sexual relations are only appropriate in marriage. The school may want all staff to set an example of living in accordance with the tenets of their faith (and parents may send their children expecting this.)

But the staff member may be able to claim that dismissal or discipline in this situation would be discrimination on the grounds of “relationship status” under s 7(1)(s) (which term includes, according to the Dictionary at the end of the Act, being a “domestic partner” of someone else).

Or the school may expect students to adhere to a code of conduct that is consistent with the values of the faith, and students may decide to defy this code and claim that they are being discriminated against on one of the grounds under the Act.

The proposed amendments

(a) “Reasonable, proportionate and justified” — but who decides?

The proposed amendments will, in effect, roll out similar limits to apply to other religious bodies other than schools. The amendments to s 32 would mean that decisions of religious bodies made in accordance with their faith (other than a closely defined set of decisions relating to ordination, training for ordination, or religious services — though see below on this), will not only have to be justified by their faith, but now also be shown to be “reasonable, proportionate and justifiable in the circumstances” (new s 32(1)(d)(ii)).

While these adjectives all sound sensible and mild, the fact is that where this criterion is imposed, the decision on what is “reasonable” (etc) will have to be made by a tribunal or a court which will not share the faith commitments of the body.

As I have noted in an article entitled “Respecting the Dignity of religious organisations: Courts deciding theology?”, there are some issues of “private law”, involving contracts, torts (civil wrongs) or property held under trust, where secular courts will need to come to a view on religious matters. These will almost always be cases where both parties have expressly or impliedly agreed to be bound by religious principles.

But in other situations, where obligations are imposed on religious bodies externally, by the wider community, respect for religious freedom means that religious bodies should be allowed to determine for themselves the content of what their faith requires.

Part of the respect that should be offered to a religious group, then, is that it be left to order its life in accordance with its own understanding of the religious doctrines that shape its existence.

Of course, there are some circumstances where the living out of those doctrines may need to be controlled in the interests of fundamental rights of members of the group or members of the public — where a religious group, for example, inflicts physical or sexual abuse on children or other vulnerable persons.

There are well recognised limits to religious freedom. But even in those cases, there are significant questions to be raised as to whether the State should be interpreting, or “re-interpreting” doctrine, or rather simply saying that “whatever your doctrine means, we cannot allow this behaviour”.

The latter response is more consistent with the dignity of the group, which is not undermined but actually affirmed when the group is held accountable for the lived consequences of its doctrines.

Foster, “Respecting the Dignity” (2020) at 177.

There is another amendment to s 32 which may have a further narrowing effect. As noted, the current provision in section 32(1)(a)-(c) exempts ordination and training and religious service decisions altogether from the operation of the Act. But the new version of s 32(1) will add a requirement that the decision “conforms to the doctrines, tenets or beliefs of the body’s religion”.

This means that even in the fundamental decision as to who can be a minister of religion, for example, a church will need to be able to show (again, to the satisfaction of a secular tribunal or court) that a criterion they use flows from their own “doctrine, tenets or beliefs”.

For example, given the deep differences of opinion among Bible scholars over whether women can be appointed to lead churches, even such a core matter as the Roman Catholic church only ordaining male priests might be challenged before an ACT tribunal.

(b) Restrictions on religious groups supplying “goods, services or facilities”

Under the proposed ACT amendments, the existing removal of religious freedom protections under s 32 from schools, will now be extended further to all religious bodies in cases where “discrimination is not on the ground of religious conviction — [to] the provision of goods, services or facilities” (new s 32(2)(a)(iii)). This will have the effect that any religious body providing these things to others, will be forbidden from choosing not to provide those things on any other ground other than “religious conviction”.

This will mean, for example, that a local church that hires out its hall during the week may still be allowed not to hire it to another religious group (as this would be a matter of “religious conviction”). But if asked to provide the hall to a “same-sex support group” whose aim is to present homosexual activity as a normal and accepted part of life (a belief contrary to the church’s commitments to the Bible) — the church would now be required to do so.

The reach of this new provision is unclear. Suppose, for example, that a church provides communion in its Sunday service — a formal religious service where bread and wine (or grape juice) are used to symbolise Christ’s death and resurrection. Suppose that could be regarded as the provision of a “service” to congregation members.

But one Sunday, someone presents to receive communion who has been told by the leaders of the church that they are not to take communion because they are engaged in behaviour that rejects the teaching of the church. If that behaviour can be characterised as a prohibited ground of discrimination (such as living in a de facto relationship), the church may be required to offer communion to that person despite their deeply held religious beliefs.

(c) Religious groups and “functions of a public nature”

In a further restrictive move, protections under s 32(1) are removed under s 32(2)(b) from:

(b) a religious body—

(i) when performing a function of a public nature; or

(ii) whose sole or main purpose is a commercial purpose.

A “function of a public nature” is defined in the exposure draft by reference to s 40A of the Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT) (“HRA”). That provision spells out that it includes a number of what might be called “public utilities” such as electricity, gas and water supply, “public education”, and “public health services”.

But the definition under s 40A(1) provides a range of “matters to be considered” which are fairly open-ended, including under s 40A(1)(d) “whether the entity is publicly funded to perform the function”. It might be possible for someone to argue that provision of health care by a religious hospital or aged care provider, if done with access to “public funds”, transforms the provider into a body “performing a function of a public nature”.

That this is a possible view of the law can be seen in the official “Fact Sheet” about the amendments issued by the ACT government, in which we read that:

A religious body providing public health services cannot rely on the exception [in s 32]

Fact Sheet, p 2.

Related to this point, one of the new provisions inserted by the Exposure Draft would be s 23C:

23C Public functions 

It is unlawful for a public authority to discriminate against another person when performing a function of a public nature.

Again, the definition of “public authority” is referred to the HRA (s 40 this time) and is fairly open-ended. In s 40(1)(g) it extends to:

an entity whose functions are or include functions of a public nature, when it is exercising those functions for the Territory or a public authority (whether under contract or otherwise).

While at the moment this may not include a religious health care provider or aged care provider, there may be some pressure to see the definition interpreted in that way. It would be wise for the legislation to make it clear that these bodies are not included.

(d) Tightening decisions based on religious beliefs

The limited protections currently provided under s 44 (for employment decisions based on religious convictions) are now further narrowed under the new version of s 44, which will require that such decisions can only be made

(b) conformity with the doctrines, tenets or principles of the religion is a genuine occupational qualification for the position; and

(c) the discrimination is reasonable, proportionate and justifiable in the circumstances.

These added requirements, again, will have to be judged by a secular tribunal or court. It is now also made clear under s 44(2) that these limited protections which will apply to “religious groups” do not apply to schools or bodies “whose sole or main purpose is a commercial purpose”.

(e) Clubs and voluntary groups

Another provision that may have an impact on religious freedom is newly redrafted s 31:

31 Clubs and voluntary bodies 

It is not unlawful for a club or voluntary body, or the committee of management or a member of the committee of management of the club or body, to discriminate against a person if—

(a) the club or body is established to benefit people sharing a protected attribute; and

(b) the discrimination—

(i) is in relation to the provision of membership, benefits, facilities or services to the person; and

(ii) occurs because the person does not have the protected attribute; and

(iii) is reasonable, proportionate and justifiable in the circumstances.

A church or a religious club may be classified as a “voluntary body”. It could be seen to be established to “benefit” people who share a specific religious belief. Any decision on membership, by excluding someone who does not share that religious belief, would now have to be justified as “reasonable, proportionate and justifiable in the circumstances” before a secular tribunal or court.

This might apply, for example, to an Islamic Student Club at a university. The club may have been set up to serve the interests of Muslim students, but the committee may find themselves forced to defend their decision not to admit a Christian person to membership by showing why it is “proportionate”.

(f) Genuine occupational requirements — but not religious belief

There is a further restrictive provision in the proposed new s 33C. The section reads as follows:

33C Genuine occupational qualifications 

(1) It is not unlawful for a person to discriminate against another person in relation to a position as an employee, commission agent, contract worker or partner if—

(a) it is a genuine occupational qualification of the position that the position be filled by a person having a particular protected attribute; and

(b) the discrimination is reasonable, justifiable and proportionate in the circumstances.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to discrimination on the ground of religious conviction.

Sub-section (2) here excludes the application of sub-section (1) to any staffing decisions based on religious conviction. This means that religious bodies who are protected by s 32 may still apply their “doctrines, tenets or beliefs” (that they cannot rely on s 33C does not mean that they lose the protection of s 32).

But what it seems to mean is that any body or individual in the community who does not fall within the definition of “religious body” will not be able to apply religious conviction as a “genuine occupational qualification”. A “religious body” is “a body established for religious purposes”, under the new Dictionary definition.

Suppose a professional firm where the members would like the firm to be one with a “religious ethos”- all the members of the firm are Buddhists and they want to provide a service to the Buddhist community. But the firm is a group of doctors, or lawyers, or engineers (and so on one view, is not established for “religious purposes” alone). Under this new provision, even if they would like to advertise for new members of the firm and make “commitment to Buddhist belief and practice” a requirement of the position, they cannot do so.

(g) Banning religious boycotts

Finally, while there are other proposed amendments, it seems worth briefly commenting on proposed new section 20(2), which would seem to now make it unlawful in some cases for a member of the public to “boycott” a business because they disagree with a stance taken by that business on a moral issue. The provision reads:

(2) It is unlawful for a consumer of goods or services, or a user of facilities, to discriminate against the provider of the goods, services or facilities—

(a) by refusing to accept the goods or services or use the facilities; or

(b) in the terms or conditions on which the goods or services are accepted or the facilities are used; or

(c) in the way in which the goods or services are accepted or the facilities are used.

One of the “protected attributes” under the DA is “political conviction” (see s 7(n)). Suppose a place that you regularly shop at, one day puts up a sign indicating that the shop-owner supports the One Nation political party. You strongly object to One Nation’s policies. It seems that under this provision you will be acting unlawfully by deciding to switch your custom elsewhere!

Or suppose you support an airline as a regular customer, and one day the CEO of the airline announces that they have undergone a religious conversion and become a Presbyterian. You object to Presbyterians, and decide (and announce on social media) that you will never fly with that airline again.

This would again seem to be unlawful behaviour under new s20(2) (as it is a “protected attribute” that an entity has an “association (whether as a relative or otherwise) with a person who is identified by reference to another protected attribute” — s 7(1)(c)). This, in my view, is a provision that intrudes far too much on the general right of persons to spend their resources in ways that they choose!

Conclusion

These proposals will further limit religious freedom in the ACT. There must be some questions to be addressed as to whether they are legally valid. As I have argued previously in relation to the 2018 laws, where a subordinate jurisdiction like a Territory removes protections provided by a Commonwealth law, that Territory law may be invalid. The rules introduced here are narrower than the rules set out in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), sections 37 and 38. As a result, they may be inoperative.

There must also be a question of whether these restrictions are so narrow that they clash with the Constitution. While there is some debate on the matter, most Constitutional scholars today take the view that s 116 of the Constitution is applicable to Territory laws. Any law “for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion” would be invalid, at least if, as it was expressed in the main authority on the provision, it was an “undue infringement” of religious freedom.

Both of those possibilities are additional reasons not to go ahead with these laws. I encourage those concerned with these issues to contact the ACT government to let them know about these issues.

___

Originally published at Law and Religion Australia.

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Bad Company – and Good

Bad Company – and Good

We must watch out for the sort of company we keep. It is vital throughout life to be discerning about the friendships we choose to cultivate, if we want to avoid vice and nourish virtue. Too often, bad company leads Christians to compromise our values and start on the wide path to Hell.

Sadly, some basic Christian teaching that has served God’s people well for centuries tends to get overlooked by contemporary Western believers. What earlier Christians had always tended to believe, accept and act out for so long is today often being ignored or repudiated.

Here I refer to one aspect of this: the company we keep. There seems to be a lot of fuzzy thinking on this by too many Christians. If in the past some believers went too far in isolating themselves from the world and non-believers, things have gone to the other extreme today.

Peer Pressure

Far too many believers think they can just mingle and interact with the world and those in it with no problems arising. But whom you hang around with matters. Other people can have a huge influence on you, for good or evil. So we must choose our company wisely. We must discern whom we should be spending time with.

And we must decide which folks we need to avoid. The Bible has plenty of admonitions and commands about such things. Here are just some of the obvious texts on this. Psalm 1:1-2 is quite well known in this regard:

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the
Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

Also, I just read again Psalm 26:4-5 which says this:

I do not sit with men of falsehood,
nor do I consort with hypocrites.
I hate the assembly of evildoers,
and I will not sit with the wicked.

And Proverbs 1:9-19 speaks about ‘The Enticement of Sinners’:

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,
and forsake not your mother’s teaching,
for they are a graceful garland for your head
and pendants for your neck.
My son, if sinners entice you,
do not consent.
If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood;
let us ambush the innocent without reason;
like Sheol let us swallow them alive,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
we shall find all precious goods,
we shall fill our houses with plunder;
throw in your lot among us;
we will all have one purse”—
my son, do not walk in the way with them;
hold back your foot from their paths,
for their feet run to evil,
and they make haste to shed blood.
For in vain is a net spread
in the sight of any bird,
but these men lie in wait for their own blood;
they set an ambush for their own lives.
Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain;
it takes away the life of its possessors.

The New Testament also addresses this theme. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says this: “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character’.” And in 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 we read:

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols?”

What we find in James 4:4 is quite strong and quite clear:

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

Christ Ate with Sinners

Those are just some of the biblical passages which warn us about the sort of company we keep. But some critics at this point will be ready for a fight: ‘Doesn’t the Bible talk about how Jesus was a friend of sinners?’ Well, let’s look at those passages briefly.

Matthew 11:18-19 says:

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

The same thing is found in Luke 7:33-35.

And in Mark 2:15-17 we read:

And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

A few remarks can be made here. That Jesus hung around with sinners is not surprising. There were no other sorts of people Jesus could have hung around with. We are ALL sinners – every single one of us. So for Jesus to simply be anywhere on Planet Earth would mean He was in the company of sinners.

But the real issues here are these: why did Jesus hang around with sinners, and how did Jesus hang around with sinners? The Mark 2 text above already answers the first question: Jesus came into the world to save sinners. That was His mission. That was His purpose in coming to earth. As Paul put it in 1 Timothy 1:1 —

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save
sinners — of whom I am the worst.”

So we know why He came and why He spent time with sinners. But just how did He ‘hang’ with sinners? It should be pretty clear from the Gospel accounts, as well as the sorts of passages I listed above, that we know what He did NOT do.

He did not come to have a good time, to party, to be cool, to fit in, to be inclusive, to be part of the scene, to be accepted, and to be liked. He came to fulfil His mission: He hung around with sinners with the express purpose of pointing out their need (they are sinners headed to a lost eternity), and He came to show them how salvation could take place (leaving their sin, repenting, and having faith in Christ).

As one meme making the rounds on social media puts it:

“Jesus didn’t eat with sinners and tax collectors because He wanted to appear inclusive, tolerant, and accepting. He ate with them to call them to a changed and fruitful life, to die to self and live for Him. His call is transformation of life, not affirmation of identity.”

On a Mission

Far too many believers seem to think they can just go out and party and have a good time with non-believers, as if that is all that Jesus did. Um no. Jesus loved sinners enough NOT to let them remain as they were. He came to change lives. He came to set the captive free. He came to seek and to save that which was lost.

And that should be our mission as well. Sure, how that gets teased out in our interaction with sinners needs some care and prayer. If a pagan friend invited you to some rave party where drugs and sexual immorality are taking place, that may not be the best way to reach your unsaved friend.

There may not be hard and fast rules here as to what you should do as you have company with non-believers. Going out with them bar crawling and getting drunk is obviously a no-no. Perhaps going with them to a rock concert might be acceptable.

The point is not to make a long list of dos and don’ts here. The point is to be in the world to save as many out of the world as we can. Acting just like the world does is not how we do this. But as mentioned, isolating ourselves, living in a cave somewhere, and never having anything to do with non-believers is not the way to proceed either.

My point here is to take seriously the verses that I first listed. We are NOT towalk in the counsel of the wicked, stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers’ and so on. Again, how exactly this determines just what we do today in our interaction with the lost requires some discernment and wisdom.

Avoiding all sinners in Pharisee fashion is not the way to go. But I suspect that the real problem for too many Christians in the West today is being carbon copies of the world and those who live in it. We are so much like the pagans all around us that there is nothing in us that would make them want to leave their sin and come to the Saviour.

The Church and the World

Let me wrap things up with a few pertinent and hard-hitting quotes:

“There was a day when the world followed the Church. She took the initiative; she was aggressive. But it has changed now, and we are down on our knees imitating the world. The Church is like a poor old withered hag, rather than the beautiful, full-blooded bride of the Lamb we are intended to be. That we should stand by the world’s highway and stretch our withered hand for a dime from the world is a disgrace.”
~ A. W. Tozer

“The tragedy of the twentieth century especially has been that the Church in her folly has been trying to accommodate herself to the world, thinking that by doing so she could attract it. But the world expects the Christian to be different, and it is right — this is the New Testament emphasis. It is nothing but a departure from New Testament doctrine that ever tries to make the Church ingratiate herself to the world; the Church is meant to be, and is, essentially different.”
~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“The sin of worldliness is a preoccupation with the things of this temporal life. It’s accepting and going along with the views and practices of society around us without discerning if they are biblical. I believe that the key to our tendencies toward worldliness lies primarily in the two words ‘going along’. We simply go along with the values and practices of society.”
~ Jerry Bridges

“Would that we could see the wall of separation between the church and the world made broader and stronger. It makes one sad to hear Christians saying, ‘Well, there is no harm in this; there is no harm in that,’ thus getting as near to the world as possible.”
~ Charles Spurgeon

I am wired by nature to love the same toys that the world loves. I start to fit in. I start to love what others love. I start to call earth ‘home.’ Before you know it, I am calling luxuries ‘needs’ and using my money just the way unbelievers do. I begin to forget the war. I don’t think much about people perishing. Missions and unreached people drop out of my mind. I stop dreaming about the triumphs of grace. I sink into a secular mindset that looks first to what man can do, not what God can do. It is a terrible sickness. And I thank God for those who have forced me again and again toward a wartime mindset.”
~ John Piper

“The weakness of so many modern Christians is that they feel too much at home in the world. In their effort to achieve restful ‘adjustment’ to unregenerate society they have lost their pilgrim character and become an essential part of the very moral order against which they are sent to protest. The world recognizes them and accepts them for what they are. And this is the saddest thing that can be said about them. They are not lonely, but neither are they saints.”
~ A. W. Tozer

___

Originally published at CultureWatch. Photo by Helena Lopes.

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PHOTOS: Historic Church in West Virginia Burned Down in Suspected Arson

A historic church in West Virginia was destroyed recently in what may have been arson, and neighbors are deeply disturbed by the news.

The St. Colman Catholic Church had already been destroyed by the time crews with the Beaver Volunteer Fire Department made it to the scene early Sunday, Fox News reported Monday.

“At this time the fire is considered suspicious in nature and is being investigated as arson,” the department said in a social media post, adding, “We were assisted by Ghent VFD, Coal City VFD, Ghent EMS, National Park Service and the WV State Police.”

A historic church in West Virginia was destroyed recently in what may have been arson, and neighbors are deeply disturbed by the news.

Beaver Volunteer Fire Department

Officials had not yet shared information about potential suspects in the case, the Fox article said.

The church was listed in the National Archives Catalog, and the website said it was originally built in 1877 to 1878 as a hewn log structure.

“This is still evident in the hand hewn sills and joists that rest on large foundation stones. The log structure was covered in c. 1928 by long clapboard wood siding that was, and is, painted white,” the site’s documentation read:

On the interior, there are twelve benches that are used by occasional worshippers. The altar is painted white, though the front of the altar contains two identical panels that have an encircled cross in their centers. A wood burning stove still provides heat. The altar and some of the benches were constructed in 1904 by Father J.J. Swint, who was a carpenter as well as priest, and later became Bishop of Wheeling.

St. Colman’s Church and Cemetery stand in a rural and isolate environment in which they clearly stand out as a local landmark of significance to southern West Virginia.

A historic church in West Virginia was destroyed recently in what may have been arson, and neighbors are deeply disturbed by the news.

Beaver Volunteer Fire Department

Social media users shared their distress over the recent loss, one person writing, “Pure evil caused this. They can destroy a building but not the Spirit of those who built and watched over it through all these years.”

“This is such a shame, it was a beautiful little church and we enjoyed visiting. Our family has relatives buried in the cemetery there and many years ago attended,” another commented.

Citizens with more information about the incident should contact Trooper D. Daniels at (304) 256-6700, the WV State Fire Marshal’s Arson Hotline, 1 (800) 233-3473, notify Crime Stoppers of Raleigh County at 304-255-STOP or visit www.crimestopperswv.com.

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