John Bradshaw - Conversation with Lincoln Steed
Thanks so much for joining me. Lincoln Steed is my guest today. Originally from Australia, although he's been in the United States for many years, he has had a long and, I would say, illustrious career in ministry, especially in publishing. He is the editor of a longstanding, of a historic magazine called "Liberty". Thanks for joining us. This is our Conversation.
— Lincoln, thanks so much, I really appreciate you taking this time.
— It's my pleasure to be on the program.
— Let's start not at the beginning, we'll start with what you're doing now. We'll talk about "Liberty" We'll talk about you a little bit, what you've done, where you've been, what are you doing, and then we want to talk about religious liberty.
— Yes, so tell me about "Liberty Magazine".
— Well, "Liberty Magazine" as you said is a long running magazine, it was published under its present name in 1906 in the shadow of the Capitol. And I was telling you beforehand, there's a park next to the Capitol now, but there was a row of buildings in that park area, just a few yards from the Capitol back in 1906 and in a property owned by George Washington's family, "Liberty Magazine" began its publishing work and, of course, it was a small beginning, but today we print somewhere between 165 and 185,000 every issue.
— That's a lot.
— And it mostly goes to politicians, lawyers, judges, mayors. We say the thought leaders alive. I'm troubled by that because in my view anyone that reads Liberty is a thought leader.
— Sure. Let me talk about that. We were filming an It Is Written television program in a courthouse, at least in part, and the judge said, "Hey, you guys, you're those 'Liberty Magazine' people. I love 'Liberty Magazine'" Are you getting feedback? It goes to these people. What sort of feedback are you getting?
— Oh, I get good feedback. You know, no editor gets thousands and thousands of letters, but I can guarantee any issue, there will be somebody write back. The other day there was a gentleman from Salt Lake, said that he'd worked on the, the staff of, a Utah senator, he didn't name him, but I could guess who it was. And he said, "I read every issue religiously" and he says, "but your editorials," he says "they're hitting the spot," he says, "I find them," he said, "more valuable than that of our prophet".
— Oh, how interesting is that? That puts you in elevated company.
— Prophets come and prophets go, I don't believe in every prophet, to be put on that level. And I also told you that fairly recently after an editorial on the Kavanaugh confirmation, I got a letter from a couple of judges, but one of them from Philadelphia said that she, you know, she hardly could deal with the horrors that she saw in the courtroom day in, day out, and then she says, "And I picked up 'Liberty Magazine,' I read your editorial". She says, "It gives me hope".
— Yeah, that's another...
— And that's what I wanna do. Not just if they like how I write it.
John Bradshaw: Yeah.
— And as you would expect, I'm a Seventh-Day Adventist, that's the bottom line of why I'm doing it. Religious liberty is something I fervently believe in. But I try to communicate our world view and I put in there a view of revelation and fulfilled prophecy and nearness of the Lord's coming.
— Yeah, and that really spoke to her heart.
— Well, we're going to talk about religious liberty, where you see it being and where you see it going. But I do want to talk a little more about liberty. So, for someone who's uninitiated, what does "Liberty Magazine" do? You pick up an issue, what's it about and why?
— Well, it's like all magazines, it's sort of a plateful of different offerings. But the guiding principle has to be that we are defending religious liberty and in "Liberty Magazine" we come at it from a historic, constitutional, philosophical, and, at root, a very basic religious biblical basis.
— So whose religious liberty are you defending? You said you're a Seventh-Day Adventist. All right, so you're defending the religious liberty of Seventh-Day Adventists. Is that what this is all about?
— No, no.
— Well, why would, so whose religious liberty...
— In fact, we are quite sure of 180,000 or so that we send out, but only about 10,000 to 14 at the most go directly to Seventh-Day Adventists. This is not for Adventists, but I wish all Adventists were reading it because it represents what they officially hold.
— And we believe that religious liberty is the gift of God to all human beings.
— Yeah, I wanna ask you about that. Why should you care about the religious liberty of a Mormon, 'cause you're not one of a Catholic, 'cause you're not one of, why should you care about the religious liberty of a Baptist? Or a Jew? Let me say...
— You can answer that on several levels. First of all, if you only guard your own religious liberty, what about the other person? And in their view they think they're right just as you think you're right. And if someone else can be discriminated and restricted in their practice of religions, it might not be a long trip till yours is restricted.
— So there's a little self-interest, but beyond that, it's the principle in Eden where God created Adam and Eve and gave them the power of choice, and they happened to choose wrong at that point. So we're free moral agents and to deny that right in other people to choose their destiny and to seek toward God where He may be found, and a seeker may not find Him first time around, but if we make it free, free inquiry, they will come to Him.
— Are you concerned about the religious liberty of non-Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims?
— Absolutely. We have to defend everybody. And you were going to ask about where we are now, I can tell you in a nutshell where we are now in the United States. It's religious entitlement which is tunnel vision of religious liberty. There is much talk about religious liberty at the moment and it's good talk, but in put into practice it's special prerogatives for a particular religious viewpoint. Very little concern for those on the periphery.
— Um-hum, um-hum. Okay, we're gonna get to that first. So we talked about liberty, started in 1906 existed in another form even going back further to 1880. That's a long...
— That's been Seventh-Day Adventist, who already had a deep theological understanding of liberty and ultimately, as Paul says, the Gospel of liberty is the Gospel. We're liberated from the power of sin.
— And as Christ said, "I set before you an open door that no man can shut".
— You're right. That's right.
— absolutely. So, we are free. "Liberty Magazine" can't get or keep your religious liberty. You have it inherently. But we can make it more difficult or ease the difficulties by what we do or don't do about spreading that story but liberty, you have. And that's what we're trying to explain to our readers. That this is a God-given right, a God-given status. As a human being to start with, you have a right to exercise your choice, and as someone that's accepted God, you have absolute freedom in Christ.
— What do you think it says about a church, about a denomination, that would sponsor or facilitate the production of a magazine like this? There may be others. Are there others? Does the Church of Christ, or the Church of God or the Nazarenes, do they have anything like this?
— Not generally. There is a Baptist publication, but it doesn't represent all of the Baptists. Certainly not the Southern Baptists. Although, I shouldn't cut them too much criticism because the Southern Baptists are concerned with religious liberty because many years ago Baptists, Methodists, and then rising out of that context, Adventists, religious liberty was central. But at this late point, many in the Southern Baptists, sort of looking toward political power to gain...
— Sure. That's true.
— You know, religious entitlement. So there's elements of the Baptists. They are certainly civil rights, civil liberties groups that are arguing for religious liberty. But not too many churches. What they instead want is the right for their own practice.
— Right, and here, with Seventh-Day Adventists, you're fighting for all.
— The world is turning and tumbling in ways that are disorienting for many people. And one of the strongest voices, at least in saying they believe in separation of church and state, which is the linchpin concept on religious liberty in the United States. One of the strongest voices, amazingly, is the Roman Catholic Church. By and large, the Protestants do not believe in separation. I've been to many meetings where they spit it out and they say, not in the constitution. And I remember Bill Bright, who's long gone now, the Campus Crusade founder. I saw him on television and with the oxygen up his nose, he was in desperate straits, and he looked at the camera and he said, "Separation of church and state is a satanic concept".
— Have mercy! He said that?
— Yes. That's how far they've come. Now the Catholics speak well of it, but it's on their own terms. And I donut believe they mean badly on it, because there's a refreshing breeze blowing through Roman Catholicism at the moment. People are being encouraged to study their Bibles and think independently. But the Roman Catholicism or Roman Catholic view is separation or subsidiarity. There is the state and there is the church, but the state is subsidiary to the church.
— Well, that's been their view forever.
— Well, of course, but they state it as a separationist view. They're separate, but since one is subsidiary to the other, if there's ever a conflict then you call seniority of the state.
— That sounds a whole lot like feathering one's own nest...
— Well, that's why I'm explaining it. I think it's a flawed view, but to give them their credit, they at least acknowledge the constitutional mandate in the First Amendment that says Congress shall make no law establishing religion nor prevent the free exercise. That's a hands-off approach, which we are not quite in now.
— Okay, I wanna talk to you about some of these things, but before we go too much further, I wanna talk to you about you. Anyone listening right now notices you have a fabulous accent. It's almost perfect, but you were born on the western side of the Tasman Sea rather than on the eastern side, so it's not quite perfect.
— And I was born in the Deep South, as I tell people.
— You've got a southern accent. A little bit like mine.
— In fact I was born in the far west. I was born in Western Australia.
— Were you?
— Perth. But my family moved very quickly to Sydney and I'm a fourth-generation Seventh-Day Adventist and my father from the earliest days was at the division, at our headquarters for the whole South Pacific, he was public relations, temperance, and...
— He was an illustrious character. Tell me something about your dad.
— Well, he was the first person down in Australia and I think in the Adventist world to be on television and in the newspapers.
— The very first?
— Yeah. In fact, there's a story that he told me once but some of his peers since he died have told me, that way back in the post-world-war days when I was just barely alive, I don't remember World War II. I'm older than I thought I would be, but not that old.
— But he and a friend went to a public event at the town hall. The Prime Minister Menzies. He was a historic figure in Australia. He was sort of like Roosevelt to Australia.
— That's right.
— Menzies was there at a public event and as the whole procession came in and my father with his friend behind the rope barricade were watching, the prime minister came, and behind him the media, and one of the reporters called out to my father, he says, "Steve, what are you doing on that side of the ropes"? He says, "Join us. Come with us". So dad jumped the rope, which he was inclined to do that, and disappeared into the event with all the dignitaries. And his friend had to wait and wait and late that evening, the journalists, my father, and the prime minister came out, all of them with their arms around each other's shoulders. Now that's what my father was like. He took every opportunity. And it may have made me a little more retiring because when your father is sort, of oomph!
— You fall back a bit. But I know that they were exciting days.
— Yeah, yeah.
— And So I grew up in that, that context and I remember, for example, even in our home, for several weeks we had all the Gutenberg and other early Bibles in our home because he ran a contest in Sydney for the oldest Bible.
— Oh, wow!
— And that really opened my mind. Looking through those old Bibles with the woodcuts.
— And I remember being really taken by one woodcut of Ezekiel's wheel.
— Oh, sure.
— And it looked like a spaceship to me.
— So, and I'm not saying that God's is a space traveler in the science fiction sense, but the intimations of modernity that they saw back in those days were amazing. But to see these invaluable Bibles. And then my father organized the best Saturday night in town, with the Adventist Church, organized a youth rally for the whole community. Every once a month I think it was in the town hall and it was packed.
— At what town? What town was this?
— In Sydney.
— Sydney town hall, yeah.
— So all this was in the era of the 50s and up 'till, yeah, basically the 50s.
— So were you always gonna be a church worker?
— I was always expected to be.
— Oh, you were?
— And I can remember, oh, even back then, a lot of our world church leaders would come visiting and dad would show them around and they and others, they'd pat me on the head. say, "Are you gonna be a temperance leader, or whatever, like your father, or a pastor like your father"? And I'd think, anything but. Anything but.
— Yeah, yeah, yeah. Did your dad make it clear that was his expectation of you?
— No, no.
— Just the others.
— No. And, in fact, even he retired, he was assistant to President Wilson carrying on what was left of the temperance department. And Wilson sat him down one day when he was talking about retirement, he says, "I guess your son's gonna take over from you". And he says, "Oh, no, I don't think Lincoln would want to do that".
— Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. My son gets asked the same thing.
— "You going to be a preacher like your dad"? My son just loves it. He'll look at people and smile and say, no.
— No. And it's not that, I had nothing against my father but I wanted to be myself.
— Yeah, do your own thing.
— And I read a lot and I didn't like school, but I did well in school and I wrote well. So I've sort of headed toward editing and writing, and yet in a curious back door way I've come back to what my father was doing because he told me what very few people in our church remember, that in the early days the temperance department, which he headed at the general conference, and the religious liberty department were one. They were the same department.
— That's very interesting.
— And on the principle, in the old liberties I've seen it. On the principles of religious liberty there was sobriety and abstaining from alcohol was one of the principles of religious liberty.
— How interesting is that? So did you have a career in secular writing, secular editing? Or did you just dive straight in...
— No, I went into the church.
— Straight in.
— And that was,, well it wasn't so much my view to be in the church, but we all shape our experiences. And my father took us all around the world. It was the greatest gift he could have given us.
— Yeah, yeah.
— And I remember on one of our returns to Australia, we did a world trip. And my father was an organizer of the first degree. But he took us as guests of the government to Bulgaria and to the communists. Yeah, he was on first-name terms with these people. And I remember being picked up at the airport in the limousine and all the banners and the pictures that you saw in the communist era. And look at the guy next to us and he's the guy on the banners. And dad made a comment, he says, "Oh, it's election time". So, my dad says, "Well, I wish you the best". And he says, "Don't worry". He says, "No one is running against me". So we went there, we went to Afghanistan, we went to Iran, Seventh-Day Adventist camp meeting in Iran. I know there's Adventists in Iran. This was, of course, when the Shah was there. And you know, we went from one place to the other but India was what changed my mind, or affected my mind.
— Why was that?
— The overwhelming affect, and India's made great progresses, but it's still a massively populated country next to China and the poverty is mind numbing, in spots. And we took a train from Amritsar to New Delhi, across the heartland of India.
— Yeah, I know that area well I might say I was in Punjab state. Very close to where we headquarter our eyes for India thing. The Golden Temple is there. You went to the Golden Temple?
— We went to the Golden Temple, again.
— Barefoot through the streets.
— Paddling through what goodness. But I remember on the train when we woke up one morning, looked out and as far as you could see in the field, maybe far, COVID distance apart, five or six food apart, people squatting down doing their morning business.
— And then to see the beggars with twisted arms and all the rest and to this day I struggle with it, because your idea of what a human being is and the individuality and the dignity of a person. It really overwhelmed me.
— Oh, yeah.
— And then I remembered visiting our headquarters in New Delhi and hearing them say that they were short of workers, because many Indians with some get-and-go were heading to Andrews or to Columbia Union College. There were a whole group of them there and good people, I can't critique them individually, but the net effect was they were short of workers. And here I could see this crying need. And it just impressed upon me that I had to go back to my country, to Australia. Now, you well know, Australians don't want you back. Not, I mean, you know, in a gross sense but individually, of course they're good people. But it was the idea at that time, you might go overseas and make your way, but you didn't come back.
— But I had this burden and so as soon as I was married, and even before I was married, my wife knew I was returning. I asked the division president to go back andInnocent guy, I said, "I'll do anything". I just graduated with a master's from Andrews and I really had no particular task in mind. I just wanted to serve the church.
— Sure. Yeah, that's...
— So, that's really what influenced me.
— And even now when I, when I travel, even in the U.S. I usually circle around and find out a whole place. It's easy to stay as at many of our church meetings, you'll be at some high palatial sort of a compound often, and yet, very often, you go two blocks behind there and there's people sleeping in a few blankets draped over a light post or support or something.
— Yeah, if they've got that.
— There's clearly something going on in the U.S. There's a lot more homeless people, that are really a block or two from the main street. And even in Portland, Oregon, you must have seen them. Just whole stretches of them there along the freeway. So there's a crying need in this world, and we have to do something about it.
— There is a crying need. We're gonna talk about what it is we can do. We'll talk about religious liberty and religious liberty issues. We'll try to make a little bit of sense about where we are in the United States at the moment and where you see it going.
— So, I'm looking forward to that. My guest is Lincoln Steed, he is the editor of "Liberty Magazine" which is a fabulous magazine. If you don't get it, I reckon you should. We'll be back with more in just a moment.
— Welcome back to Conversations where my guest is Lincoln Steed, who is the editor of "Liberty Magazine" and "Liberty Magazine" is all about religious liberty. So, Lincoln, where are we with religious liberty? We'll talk about the United, yeah, we'll talk about the United States, rather than the world. Let's take on something smaller and more manageable like the United States.
— Well, yeah, there is a world. You and I know, New Zealand originally and I'm Australian, there's things beyond the barriers of this country.
— And we've got to resist a little bit what I remember Thoreau in his Walden Pond literary great of the U.S. He said once, he says, you know, what does the great flapping ear of American care about what happens in England?
— Well, in reality, we should care and the world is more interconnected than we imagine. But from prophecy and from many religious liberty events, the U.S. like Rome and the heart of the Roman Empire, this is the center of where things happen.
— Yes, it is.
— And so it's not immaterial how the U.S. goes. And while this was never a perfect country, you know, I think very highly of the U.S. It has a rather unique constitution.
— It does.
— That enshrines in a very formal and direct way basic freedoms and particularly the freedom of religion. And it's worth remembering, the Soviet Union, by constitution, allowed freedom of religion.
— How did that work out?
— Well, not very well.
— Because it was sort of in your mind, but practice it and you'll see what happens.
— Yeah, it's a little bit like that...
— And their whole philosophical base of communism, of course, was antithetical to religion. It was in competition. But the U.S. is a unique animal in that regard. And for much of its history, while there's been an ebb and flow, there's been an effort to sort of hew to those basic principles. But by my lights, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, where from the 50s on, we were pains in the U.S. to sort of posit ourselves as a Christian nation, not structurally, but societally.
— That's right.
— And here we were the good people and so on. We were putting up ten commandment monuments, which were really not appropriate constitutionally, but they were designed to show we're Christian versus godless communism. And we would welcome anyone that was escaping this illiberal un-Christian sort of environment. With the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the mask was off and increasing secularity of America revealed itself. We're not at pains anymore to prove that we are particularly Christian or that the Constitution is so precious. I'd love to do, in fact, before I retire, maybe I need to it. Send people out and do a survey of the knowledge of the constitution. It's almost gone.
— That's right. No, that's absolutely right.
— And, you know, in Seventh-Day Adventism, we have a prophetic analysis of Revelation and Daniel, explicated for our day, and there's the expectation that at some point the United States, well, the word used was repudiate every principle of the constitution. And I believe we're well into that process.
— Quick question then I'll follow up on what you just said. There's a statement, really, this country's never been a Christian nation.
— It just simply never has been.
— Almost every issue of liberty argues against that. Structurally, never.
John Bradshaw: Yeah.
— And on purpose, not by default. They were religious in a generic Christian way, an amazing amount of the founding fathers were Deists which is not a Christian in the form we recognize today. There wasn't evolution around, so they believed, yeah, there's a creator, a prime cause, a first mover. And then they sort of looked at the stars, But he's absent. He set things going and he's gone. Well, that's not the Christianity we know today. They had that view but even then, other than some inadvertent, symbolic overtones of secret societies which you see it on the dollar and all, they didn't insert religion in the structure at all, by design. And I think that was the genius of it.
John Bradshaw: Sure.
— And there's many statements by the founding fathers, Madison in particular, who was very concerned about the separation of church and state. They believed the religion would be stronger for being left alone. And if they aided one particular religion, it would turn around and persecute other factions.
— I wanna ask you about this because someone is hearing you and saying, boy, these people who wanna see the separation of church and state don't sound like Christians to me. And that's how some people think.
— Well, what we donut wanna see is the separation of society and religion.
— We would wish and pray that our society could turn back in a general way. You know, the Old Testament had the people getting religion and something galvanizing happened and they were ready for the Lord's presence. If the God's Spirit could move within our community, wonderful.
— Why though don't we want the government tinkering with religion?
— Well, we don't have the Shekinah glory of God, we don't have the Urim and the Thummim to identify what we want. So, it'll be somebody who has a view of what God wants and you want them imposing that on the population? You're almost is guaranteed to be a religious dictatorship.
— Sure. And we've seen that before in history.
— Well, many, many times.
— And it doesn't work...
— We're fighting something like that now in the Middle East or the tendency toward that.
— Sure, no doubt about it.
— That's what Islamic Fundamentalism. You can argue the nature of Islam a lot. I'm quite willing to argue that most Muslims are not party to that radical form of it, but in its radical form, which picks up on the Quran, there is no separation of church and state and the ruler has a commission to enforce the religion on the people. We don't want that...
— No, you don't want that...
— This country or in any country.
— No, no, that's right. So now, what do we see happening with religious liberty trends down here, some of us would say, in the latter days of earth's history? What are you seeing here are the trends for religious liberty?
— Well, think about the trend. It's abundantly obvious that this once Protestant society is no longer dominantly Protestant. Senator Santorum, a wonderful human individual, he ran for president some time ago after a couple of terms in the Senate. He said publically, it was printed in all the newspapers, that Protestantism is absent in America today.
— And was he bemoaning that?
— No. He was just stating it. I know that the Roman Catholic Church sees that, and it's not a sinister thing. As the self-proclaimed custodian of the Christian whole, they encourage their members to move into the breach. That's why there are so many Catholic legislators and people at all levels of government.
— It's not their problem. The Constitution actually encourages it. It says there's only two religious sections in the Constitution relating to religion. That half of the First Amendment that I quoted and one other that says, no religious test for public office.
— It's no problem with a Catholic or a Jew or anyone else, or Muslim in these places. But it's very telling that so many Catholics have moved in and people of an overtly Protestant faith not so much to be seen anymore.
— So, but more than that, we've become a very godless, hedonistic, self-satisfied, consumerist sort of a society, at least before COVID. I mean, that's in the process of shifting things a little. So things have changed in ways that the framers couldn't have seen. And as I've said before, the knowledge and even a deep understanding of what the Constitution was designed to accomplish is gone. Like we're in the context of an election now. It's probably past by the time this comes out.
— But the election, or the last several elections have shown that most people think this is a majoritarian state. Read the Constitution. It was designed to defuse majoritarian impulses.
— You're moving quickly enough for me to have about eight questions to ask you right now. One of them I'll ask about that, there are people who wanna see the Electoral College abolished.
— Well, then they want to change the Constitution, and they can, but it has to be done, through a general, you know, two-thirds majority in Congress, then every state or at least two-thirds, I think, of the states need to...
— But how smart would it be to abolish the Electoral College?
— Well, it will lead the way directly to what they saw in the old world where a certain faction, either political or religious, will persecute the other.
— Has to be that way if you take away that representation.
— I just think of where we are at this moment as we record. There's public statements about jail and punishment for certain political enemies. That is not the thing of a democratic representative government. My wife's from Guatemala, Central America, and it used to be that the dictators, when they wouldn't lose power because they knew that if they lost it, they'd lose their life. And I remember the turn in Guatemala to now a democracy, the first shift was they sent the dictator home to his farm. So when you have punishment with political opposition, you know, Russia, the guy was poisoned because he's challenging the leadership.
— Sure, oh, yeah.
— But we're on our way to that. And religious liberty is a particular aspect of the constitution, but it's been said many times, and I remember one political figure, Hilary Clinton, speaking at one of our dinners, pointed it out. But it could have been a Republican. She said, you can pretty much tell the state of civil liberties in general by the state of religious liberty, or conversely.
— That's very interesting, yeah.
— And you would have to be blind not to know that in the United States in the last several years we've seen radical rethinking of constitutional norms.
— Yeah, give us some examples of that.
— Well, freedom of the press. The press is, the First Amendment, I quoted the religion one, but the other half of it is freedom of the press. You cannot have a functioning democracy without a press that's free to comment and report on what the government's doing.
— But you're saying that it's not? Or is less so?
— No. They're being portrayed as enemies of the people.
— Yeah. Yeah, okay.
— And I'm not defending what they do. The press in the United States, you and I both know, Americans are being fed a pablum of news. You've got to go to BBC or somewhere else to get it. But when there's a conscious effort to restrict the press, that's against the constitution, but more importantly will lead to despotism.
— You see that as an attempt to restrict the press or is it someone calling the press out. Because look, doesn't matter where you are in this country...
— I don't know the inner thoughts of anyone in responsibility, but the net effect is that the press is being discredited and diminished and information is not available. What does the Bible say? "My people perish for lack of knowledge".
— I think the press should be discredited. The news stopped being the news about 10 years ago. So now you've got FOX News over here, which is all conservative all the time. And no matter if President Trump did something despicable, they'd tell you how wonderful it was. And the other 98% of the news would be so far to the left, or starting left and veering over into the right...
— I go to a lot of events in Washington and I know what's, not, not everything that's happening, but I see a phenomenon. Many things, including the press outlets because of the computers, you know, the money's not in it as it used to be.
— And the news agencies have laid off reporters.
— There's not, in fact, some of the news agencies are going out of business.
— So the Internet has changed the way news is delivered.
— So there's not that many reporters. So I go to these events and as you come in, there's a handout in the door as you arrive that tells you all that committee or that legislator wants you to know.
— And then I read the newspapers. It's exactly the same.
— To me the problem of the press, not so much they're giving fake news, they're become the all-too-willing handmaidens of official bureaucracy.
— But that's, that's a...
— They not questioning.
— That's a massive problem. When you've got a lot, doesn't matter, again, whatever side of the aisle you're on, you've got the news that they're apologists and cheerleaders for political parties now. That's a terrible place for us to be.
— You know, this isn't religious liberty per se, but we swim in this pond and it's very easy to show all of those that, were in the Continental Congress that helped frame the Constitution, and, you know, Jefferson and Madison and so on.
— They really didn't expect, even though there were factions early on, political parties. They'd looked to England, the Whigs and the Tories and they knew that was a problem. And, so, you know, you mentioned the Electoral College. That's not premised on parties. You looked, the Constitution says the winner of the ballots from each state. Never says anything about anyone voting for the president, but each state appoints electives and when they come and they pledge by their state toward this or that candidate, the winner is the president, the runner-up is the vice-president. Already we've skewed from the constitution. It wasn't premised on parties.
— Yeah, yeah.
— And so party factionalism is destroying the U.S. And for Seventh-Day Adventists, I think I mentioned it to you in the prep area, we were advised early on, because there was a huge debate at the time of the rapid formation of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, there was a huge debate of whether we would be on the gold or the silver standard.
— Um-hum, um-hum.
— Divided along party lines.
— There were pastors getting up and holding forth, we should be silver, we should be gold. And the co-founder of our church, Ellen White, was very definitive. She says, any pastor or teacher that's involved in party politics should resign or be fired. And I listen to the news media all the time and I hear politicians particularly saying, I'm not being political on this. Well, if they are a political animal what they mean is I'm not being partisan on this.
— Partisanship. Sure.
— And the partisanship in the U.S. is extreme.
— Yeah. No, it has. You've noticed that, we've all noticed that John Green wrote in his autobiography that when he came to the Senate there was a real collegiality. I think that in the mid-70s. Real collegiality, we had differences of opinion, but we'd have a beer together and we'd eat dinner together and we were friends. He said, by the time we left, he left in 1999, he said, it was all different.
— And now, now it's...
— No, I don't believe we're on the verge of a civil war, but, on the verge of the civil war there were fights in I think it was the Senate, and one senator beat another senator senseless with his metal-tipped cane and he died later.
— Yeah. That's right.
— That's how bad it can get.
— That's right. It's not likely to get there because we're so civilized now.
— Well, we're divided.
— That's it. I think that's...
— North and South.
— Very divided.
— They were two separate areas. But now when you've just got a mix and there's a, you know, complaints on every hand, how would you form up into two sides? I don't think so.
— Yeah, yeah, yeah.
— But I believe we're at the point, well, already we're saying it, where civil insurrection is on the rise.
— I wanna ask you this question so that I don't forget even though we're really...
— But people are forgetting the basic liberty, I go with that, religious liberty.
— Yeah, yeah. What can Protestantism do to regain its rightful, its rightful place. You can define that however you want.
— It needs to start protesting again.
— And there's no question that, you know, there's collegiality in many areas of the world, in spite of the trade war with China and so on. Much of the world now is a global village to borrow a term. And I think religion, and some of our own religious liberty leaders travel internationally doing this. Religion sort of has a nodding relationship with other religious leaders and they're talking a lot. But not anxious to offend, I think, they've allowed the unwarranted rise of Rome and its worst aspects. The claims of Rome to be the dominant, in fact, thee singular religious power.
— Explain what you mean by that.
— Well, I'll go back to one example that people don't seem to even notice now. There was a great schism is Christianity, not between Protestants and Catholics, but initially between Eastern Orthodox and the Church of Rome. And the issue that they most split on was they would not recognize the claim of the Pope of Rome, or the Bishop of Rome, to be God's anointed and the singular authority that to on all things, you know, on church matters and having the keys of heaven and hell, which is not the way that they execute it. And I think we've allowed, because, and I speak of this in "Liberty Magazine" often. I'm not against Catholics. Wonderful Catholics. And I think, as I said earlier, there's a breath of fresh air running through it. But in rising to dominance again, Rome is presenting us with the ultimate threat that America was established to defeat. A church playing a government and a government that is a church. It's, you know, we're seeking church-state separation, but here is a church and a state, one.
— Yes, that's been tried before. And if you look into the Bible, you'll see in the Book of Revelation it says that something very much like that is gonna be tried again. And the results are not going to be pretty. I'll have more with my special guest, Lincoln Steed, the editor of "Liberty Magazine" and our conversation in just a moment.
— Welcome back to conversations. My guest is Lincoln Steed, the editor of "Liberty Magazine" which has been in existence since 1906 and then before that since 1880, so you stand on the shoulders...
— And we're there until the end of time.
— Yeah, you stand on the shoulders of some...
— That's true.
— Some giants really. Let me come back before, to where we were before. You mentioned about people today, less interested in religious freedom, more interested in religious entitlement. How are we see that?
— Well, the groups, no, most people are not interested in religion. But the Christian or the moral majority or the religious right, there's different ways, and they're all misleadingly general, because there's exceptions, but there's no question there's a movement that calls itself the moral majority. And I saw how they started off. They really wanted to rally. It's the way all revolutionaries start. They believe that there was a hidden moral majority that if they just rose up, they could retake this country for God and then the country would be strengthened. They always had a fuzzy understanding of separation of church and state, but they had a good inclination to sort of just raise the moral tenor of the society. But it turned out that they were not the majority.
— So then they entered the pressure politics and they used to have voting lists that they'd pass out to their members showing them how to vote. They would keep track of every vote that the politician made, which I think is not good for freedom and it's certainly not good for church people.
— And it's inaccurate as well.
— But then they started making political alliances and finally, with the president, until the election, President Trump, you know, he has certain warts and so on, but all...
— They all do.
— But he decided that it was in his interests to cooperate with the religious right. They decided since they now had the favored spot with this new Constantine that no matter his secular bona fides, if he would do what they want, they're with him all the way.
— And so they've crossed the Rubicon, I put metaphors in on purpose, they've crossed the Rubicon to really grasping political power directly.
— And like most, I was thinking of the quote this morning, as C.S. Lewis said, that he can think of no disappointment greater than the revolutionary who had killed people and done horrible things all in pursuing an ideal of freedom and, you know, a great society, and when they see Christ coming they realize how futile it was.
— Hmm, hmm.
— I think it's gonna be the same with some of these, I hope, well-intentioned Christians, but they've taken a wrong method, direct political power, it always goes wrong, and already we've seen how they've subverted their own Christian goals.
— They're working with someone who in other times is doing things antithetical to religion, but what they're getting is an entitlement. They are getting certain privileges granted, certain it's not just people on the Supreme Court and so on, I'm not overly consumed by how you load the court or, people forget that these justices are trying judges, lawyers and they have lifetime tenure. When they get on there, there's very little correspondence between how they act there and the faction that put them on.
— Yeah, we, we've see...
— But they're doing everything possible to really subvert the constitution, if you like, to get this to be a Christian nation again.
— Let me mention this though, Lincoln. You've got say, so President Trump and religious right, the religious conservatism pretty cozy. But this is not the first time we've seen that. Nor will it be the last. So watching this right now either Trump or Biden, President Trump or Vice-President Biden is now the president. Would you expect whoever's gonna be, whoever's the president now, to act any differently? They all kiss up to religious groups so that they get a faction on their side. It's called vote gathering.
— Well, but this is a little more extraordinary. But I don't know which way the election will go and it's not given for you or me to call it either.
— That's right. That's right.
— Religious liberty is a constant and we will work with whoever is the ruling party or the president in this case. But I can see two paths, sounds like Robert Frost's.
— Yeah, it does.
— I can see two paths out of this, with one party and one with the other. If there's a second term for President Trump, very strong likelihood that something arbitrary and sudden will take place on enforcing religious viewpoints. You know, we've read a certain prophetic utterance given to Adventists that it will be a succession of natural calamities that will lead people to clamor to re-Christianize and bring God back into our society. In fact, that's not even wrong. I wish it had happened already.
— Oh, yeah. Yeah, but now, that...
— But as people that donut know the constitution and people that don't understand the separation of church and state, and people that think that we're a majoritarian country will quickly clamor for sort of a quick fix on religion and that's likely to include some sort of enforced worship, 'cause we've been there. "Liberty Magazine" was begun, or at least its precursor was begun when there was a national attempt to have a Sunday Law in the United States. I've read that. It's online still. Says unambiguously, you're to cease all activity under pain of law to attend church. So the idea...
— In the land of the free?
— The idea that that can't appear is silly. And I think we're on the verge of people out of desperation, not much else works, and this administration more than any I've seen is quite willing to buck precedence if they can't get a legislative solution, then it'll be some sort of executive order and it's done.
— But you don't think another administration will be any different, do you?
— If it's the other party, they correctly are more sensitive, to quote science, because the science is very plain regardless of what's causing it. We're in a period of climate dislocation. I think you'd have to a fool to deny that. I've traveled the world enough to, everywhere you go there's a disaster of the climate and a drought or a flood or whatever. It's endemic.
— But one party would be more likely to lower the boom and really just leave than another. It seems to me that given...
— Well, I'll tell you...
— Given the right circumstances...
— How the Democrats will link.
— Yeah. Given the circumstances, anyone will...
— They've said it on their, and it's a good thing that they will join with the protocols was Kyoto
— Kyoto yeah.
— Protocols on the environment. The Pope of Rome has a very good proposal that is being quite unanimously, except for the U.S. accepted that to save the environment, and as he puts it in a document, our entire future as the humanity is at stake. And we must save the world. And he says that in saving it we need to discover again the rhythms inscribed in nature. And he says, along those lines the seventh-day Sabbath. Well as a Seventh-Day Adventist, well. But as you'd expect, he's true to his belief system and he says that's the Eucharistic Sunday.
John Bradshaw: Yeah.
— So if the Democrats, as I would automatically expect them to do, linked with this global plan, and along for it, and then people start clamoring for religiosity, I think it's just a short circuit through to some sort of legislated worship, if not a Sunday, then, you know, confirming that we're a Christian nation, which we're not, and laying out certain protocols of religious practice.
— What has COVID-19 taught us?
— Well, it's taught me...
— About religious liberty as we look forward?
— It's taught me what I already have knew, that the norms that we have are very illusory.
— Yeah, they're fragile.
— They can change in a moment.
— Change in a moment.
— I don't believe there's any forethought in this country. In fact, little forethought on anything. How to treat it or how to react to liberties. But it showed how quickly religion could fail to pass muster as an essential service.
— That's the root problem here.
— Very interesting.
— And with that choice made badly, in certain areas, for example in California the governor I don't think is very sympathetic to Christian prerogatives.
— The bars can open, but churches cannot.
— So, yes. Since some churches persist in opening, I don't think it's direct persecution, but it's prejudice from a point not seeing that it's necessary. But on the other side, I am very troubled, even of our own church, how many, in many cases, we just sort of faded back and went back into our, I was gonna say our hutches, almost.
— Well, what really surprises me if there'd been churches, even Adventist churches that were closed, and so by order of the state and whatnot, they respected that and I think that's probably smarter than rebellion, given the circumstances, but haven't even met online. Some churches have just keeled over...
— Well, it's a matter of conscience. But it's a general phenomenon. It's not even just our church. Most churches just faded back. And I remember, the chief ethicist for the Southern Baptist was on public radio recently talking about this, and he said, admitted, that there was a membership drop off even a little before this, but with the COVID it's just people vanished.
— And will they come back later?
— That's a big question.
— Not all of them probably.
— All denominations are wondering that because if people can survive six months without church, maybe they can survive a whole lot longer. Now the question is, you're not advocating that when the governor of the state X had closed the door they should have opened them in rebellion, are you?
— Not necessarily but we should have thought a bit about it.
John Bradshaw: Yeah.
— And we should earlier on have challenged the determination that churches were not essential. Remember, while political demonstrations have been allowed, certainly supermarkets another, I think even pawn shops were allowed to, P-A-W-N shops were allowed to operate. Churches were not seen as essential services.
— So the danger was clearly no greater than some of these things and if it was seen as essential for people's spiritual and mental wellbeing, why wouldn't it have been open? Obviously you need to keep social distance and wear masks. I think that's sort of ground zero. That's just common sense. But no, I think we should have, probably legally, we should have challenged it immediately because a precedent is being set.
— And this is what I've learned from religious liberty and dealing with the lawyers, some of their things I'm not so keen on, but they're right. Much of law is precedent. And precedent once set is hard to undo.
— Yeah, yeah, for sure. When a real test comes, and, by the way, I always take my life in my own hands when I say this, 'cause I don't wanna be misunderstood. COVID's a pretty small problem. No disrespect intended to the people who have been so terribly affected. But what I mean is this; if you wanna avoid it, you can. Just stay home. I mean, the fix is pretty brutal, but just stay home and have nothing to do with no one. I spoke to a lady the other day and she said, "I'm getting tired of looking at my four walls, but I'm doing okay, I'm gonna be well". But we are coming to a time when there's gonna be a challenge you cannot avoid. Stay home you can't avoid it, wear a mask you can't avoid it.
— Well, there's more of these things coming.
— Roll over and die now. We know what's happening in the future.
— I brought a 1985, I think, it is report in the used book store on Ebola and the other things and it says at the end, we're losing the battle because of global climate change and change of demographics of settlement and that these things are lining up to come our way. Like right at the moment in the Middle East they have MERS, which is camel flu. 40% mortality rate.
— Yeah, that's not good.
— Don't want that to get on a plane.
— No, no you don't.
— But that just one out of the blue just to show you how bad they can be. There are many coming and I was a bit bemused in a debate recently, the SARS was brought up as a charge against another administration. Not many people died of SARS, but I remember at that time the experts feared that as many as 5 million people would die. And you can go online and still see cases of coffins in Atlanta and other places, that's clearly what was going on. Those in the know are fearful of the horrible series of pandemics that are coming. It's inevitable. So, yes, we'd better decide what we're going to do.
— You think something like that, we're not making a prediction, but that type of thing could directly affect religious liberty?
— Of course. The Bible is very plain that we will have to fulfill our Gospel charter, Gospel commission, in a time of horrible troubles. Jesus said, "Lest those days be shortened, no flesh will survive". Horrible times. And, yes, we can't be foolish now. But there's always threats and statistically this is not as great as some of the other threats in life. Look, at the beginning of this I said if, you know, you went to the doctor and he says, well, you've got such-and-such cancer. You know, you could die from it. He says, good news, you know, this is a 98% cure rate. You says, thank you God, you know.
— Well, obviously, if someone's dying of COVID, that's the end of the world for them and the catastrophes for their family. But this is not statistically anything near some of the pandemics of the past.
— The Black Death in Europe.
— A third to a half in Europe.
— Yeah. That's right.
— And in pretty quick order, too. And not one phase. There were cycles of those things, as we're now about to experience with COVID. I don't count it, a minor thing. I wear the mask. I'm careful. But you can't stop doing what someone's called to do. And we're called to give the Gospel commission, I remember Jesus ministered to the lepers. He could have got leprosy in theory. You know, we've got to reach out. We have to go and dare. You know I was brought up the song, dare to be a Daniel.
— Um-hum, um-hum.
— The lion's den. You know, lion will eat you.
— But you have to, as Pilgrim's Progress pointed out very clearly, the lions were chained. God says, "They're not gonna come near you".
— We don't have long, but I wanna just do some little rapid-fire things here. Looking into the future, the big issues. Are there two or three big issues that you see that there are storms brewing on the horizon, in terms of religious liberty?
— The big issue for Adventists, as indeed all people that call on the name of Christ, is they need to get serious. We need a revival. And by my take, that's the element that's been missing in the past. Because in my lifetime, we've come around to the apparent end of all things and then we've circled again and then we come around again.
— Yup, yup, yup.
— Each time the stakes become higher. But what's missing is the loud cry, to us an Adventist term.
— And this is the question I...
— You let it rain, to use the Bible term.
— And this where I was going after. So, what's on the horizon. The message for God's people therefore is to...
— Well, the message that I talk about. I was in an Adventist seminar a few years, well, about two years ago now, and a fellow in the front seat, middle-aged guy, he put his hand up and he says, tell us when we should be afraid?
— Come on.
— And I said, never.
— That's right.
— This is, so, when you see these things take place, lift up your heads because your redemption draweth nigh.
— And my father, I used to call him up probably to impress him with some of these things. He only had one answer. He would say, "Isn't it exciting". He said, "The Lord's about to come".
— That's right.
— And, you know, Adventists even were roiled a few years the idea that in the time of trouble they'd have to stand without a mediator. They don't need a mediator. If God is on your side, who could be against you?
— God's promised to protect His people, not from all realities. Cause and effect still applies. But just as in Egypt when the plagues fell, early on they suffered with a few things, but as it sharpened, God protected His people from those things.
— That's right.
— And we need to understand that. But we can't imagine that we can just ignore it. There's a statement, I don't know the reference, but I remember reading in Ellen White's writings once and it was an interesting take on Elijah and 'cause the people answered Elijah not a word when he challenged them, remember?
— And she says, that God regards indifference in a time of crisis as rebellion. So we have an obligation if it means anything to us now, and someone's not saved or lost by some of these deeper understandings, even of religious liberty or, you know, prophetic interpretation of days But you could be lost because you don't know it.
— That's for sure.
— But, yes, if you don't understand these realities of what is true faith and, you know, what God expects from us now, you'll be hied off quickly onto a false revival or a false concept of church-state. That's how you can be lost. So it's very important. And you cannot think whether it's in the church or in politics, that you can sit back and let other people do it. I believe this is the time for action.
— This is not the time for the church to be closing down all of its entities. This is the time to be pouring funds in because, again, this is something I have a burden on in the U.S. at the moment. I do not know from what I, and I studied economics in college. I had macro-economics, micro-economics, I took cost accounting as well. There's no logical reason that the monetary system continues now. They gave away $3 trillion that we don't have. The total influx from all sources for the U.S. government in the year was only 3.3 trillion. So, sooner or later, and probably sooner, we're going to have massive inflation. And there was a warning given to early Adventists that if we failed to give our funds, one day we'll throw it at the church and it will be worthless.
— Be worth nothing.
— I had a talk at one of our religious liberty conventions to some workers from Zimbabwe, you know, they had inflation that was mind boggling. And they said they only survived because of friends from outside the country gave them food in brown paper bags. But I remember one economist was giving a lecture on it and he, to set an example he handed out to each participant a one dollar Zimbabwe note and a 20 trillion dollar note. 20 trillion!
— Yeah, yeah.
— And he said, those notes were issued the same year.
— Things can change really quickly.
— So what are we told? A rapid work, a short work I will make of it.
— That's right. Final movements will be rapid ones.
— That liberty is to be proclaimed from the housetops until that moment.
— Thanks for what someone's doing. "Liberty's" a wonderful magazine. We wish you continued success.
— And it's a pleasure to talk with you about all this.
— Always good.
— Too much to say.
— We'll have to do this again some time.
— Any time.
— It's been wonderful to have Lincoln Steed from "Liberty Magazine" here and I wanna encourage you to get "Liberty Magazine". If someone's not getting it, go to libertymagazine.org, that's where you can subscribe to receive what's an excellent publication. It'd be good for you to read it and to share with somebody else. Thanks for being part of this. With Lincoln Steed, I'm John Bradshaw, this has been our Conversation.