If you’ve ever borne witness to argument’s between Christian Nationalists and their opponents on the right, you’ve probably come across disparaging references to “the postwar consensus” from time to time. But what does it really mean?
Put simply, it’s a bundle of fundamental doctrines about politics and morality which modern Westerners presume to be universally true–a standard by which men of all ages must be judged. But in contrast to such broad scope, these doctrines only became widely accepted relatively recently in the aftermath of World War II. While questioning them may seem unthinkable to Americans today, they are very peculiar beliefs from an historical perspective–far from being objective moral standards akin to natural law or Holy Scripture. Their disguise of universality is maintained only through constant repetition by mass media, public schools, universities, and other cultural authorities in the West.
These are the key doctrines of the postwar consensus:
Democracy is the only legitimate form of government.
Americans tend to see voting not as a privilege or as one particular method of political decision-making among many, but as a fundamental human right. Therefore, to deny any adult the right to vote is to render them less than human.
This doctrine is at the root of how easily we grant foreigners the ability to make America’s political decisions and how blasé we tend to be about resident aliens voting fraudulently. After all, if you count voting as part of being human, then the rest is just dubious paperwork.
This is likewise at the heart of our military adventurism abroad. Americans are quick to justify our forever wars with “spreading democracy” because we see all other forms of government as various shades of wicked dictatorship. And so, we perversely mistake every bomb dropped on the Middle East as some kind of favor to its targets.
The United States of America was, of course, founded as a republic–a form of government that uses democracy for many of its mechanisms. It’s only natural that we would have a preference for it. But embracing democracy as the universal political solution and embarking on a moral crusade to install it worldwide was an errant ideal that grew out of WWII’s resolution. We violently forced democracy on Japan and Germany as a means of making peace, and so we thought that same mechanism could bring peace anywhere. Accordingly, we spent the next 80 years defending the “Free world” against Communism and employing dubious means of imposing democracy on what we called the Third World. Reifying democracy as a moral absolute was the means by which our national conscience justified itself.
But as unquestionable as most Americans may find it (at least for the moment), this doctrine is nowhere to be found in Scripture or in sound theology. Scripture teaches us that God establishes government for the sake of punishing wrongdoers and commending rightdoers. Apart from declaring Christ as our King, it does not specify any other particular form, only the just pursuit of those ends. (And given our last century of experience, anyone paying attention should be skeptical that democracy is capable of pursuing such ends in the long run.) Christians may believe democracy to be suitable, but it is by no means required of us by God–only by transient historical circumstance. Accordingly, it is wicked for Christians to condemn their brothers in the name of Christ for pursuing alternatives.
Inequality is the root of all evil and discrimination the greatest sin.
Americans have become morally shallow as a people. Hitler is the sole point on most moral compasses, and by most accounts, his great sin was treating one group of people as superior and another as inferior–the Holocaust being considered the inevitable conclusion of any such a belief. And because “Hitler bad” is the only publicly-acknowledged moral certainty we have in common, most Americans embrace a false dichotomy between equality and hatred. Either you think that each group is the same as any other in every way that matters, or you literally hate them. There is no other option.
A notion of equality was, of course, baked into the founding of the United States, but only to a point. The scope given to the Declaration of Independence’s assertion of equality (rooted as it is in the laws of nature’s God and specific rights) is far narrower than how we treat it today. America’s early policies bore this fact out. Only male landowners were allowed to vote; immigration was limited by ethnicity; blasphemy was a crime; and while a federal church was disallowed, Christianity was nevertheless favored over any and every other religion in culture and policy alike. Early Americans as a whole in no way considered any of this contradictory with their ideals.
It was only in the 20th Century when the modern notion of equality consumed this older version whole. There were movements in this direction before the war, of course–women’s suffrage being the most obvious example. But it truly took off afterward. This era is when religious neutrality was ruthlessly imposed on public education and municipal institutions. This era is when freedom of association was abandoned for the sake of ending segregation–by sex, by race, and most recently by perversion. This era is when all restrictions were thrown to the wind and the border slowly became an evil. This era is when the parental duty of privileging one’s children was denounced as evil and maintaining law & order denounced as racist. It’s hard to overstate how much of this was motivated by endlessly repeating WWII’s Hitler narrative that “discrimination” is the greatest sin anyone can commit.
The grim result of this transformation has been moral and social insanity. We cannot prefer our own families, tribes, or nations over any given stranger on the other side of the globe. We cannot recognize that men and women are fundamentally different. We cannot say that chastity is morally superior to sodomy. We cannot even say that truth makes one religion superior to the rest. To be sure, conservative Americans will carve out a space for such discrimination in private while liberals do not; but both sides agree that expunging all such belief from the public square is a moral imperative–the only moral imperative we’re allowed to impose by force. Our every institution must not only be morally and religiously neutral, but must also treat every human being as utterly fungible.
From a Christian perspective, this is obscene. Scripture never imposes the burden of equality on us, but God does require us to discriminate in many important ways–equality be damned. But while Christians ought to be proclaiming Scriptural truth over-and-against our culture on this point, many of us are all-too-eager to do the Spirit of the Age’s dirty work and try to forcibly conform God’s Word and God’s people to modern equality instead.
Education can solve any problem.
Once equality leads a people to accept (either explicitly or implicitly) the blank slate theory of human nature, it follows that sufficient education can overcome any disadvantage and resolve any conflict. Does one race or one sex intellectually or economically outperform another? It can only be due to inequalities in their upbringing or preexisting prejudices in society–both of which can be solved by systematic education. Has virtually every multiethnic society in history devolved into violent separation? Well, as long as we can teach everyone that we’re all one race–the human race–we can finally avoid that. Is there interreligious conflict and even violence? If we teach them to understand one-another and realize how much they have in common, then religious differences will cease to matter. Even mundane issues like pestilence or poverty can be solved with just the right application of scientific know-how gained exclusively through formal education.
Americans have certainly swallowed this one hook, line, and sinker since WWII. From preschool to daycare, parents put children in standardized institutions at an ever-earlier age. At the same time, expected education has been extended further and further into adulthood. The Baby Boomers enjoyed material prosperity which made college a possibility for more people than ever before. They, in turn, made college an expectation for the entire middle class, and did all they could to bring as many poorer youth as possible into universities as well. The moral obligation to college is now so ubiquitous that few Americans can perceive anything strange about it.
This sense of normalcy changes, however, when a Christian begins to look objectively at what is given up for the sake of a college education. God says to flee fornication, but despite knowing how debaucherous college campuses are, we send our children there to have what we tell them is the best time of their lives. God warns us against pursuit of mammon, but even conservative parents still send their children to professors they recognize as wolves because they believe it’s the only path to economic success.
“Be fruitful and multiply” was the first command God ever gave mankind, but Americans assume that marriage must be put off until college is completed and a career befitting a college graduate has been attained–with the result being a ridiculous 30 years old as the median age for marriage. God directs young women to child-bearing and working for their husbands at home, but we pay huge sums of money and foist crushing debt onto them just to teach them the toxic feminist view that such God-honoring work is beneath them. The most basic Biblical instructions about everyday life are traded away for decades of fornication and indentured servitude before (maybe) landing the God-ordained estate of marriage as an afterthought.
There’s nothing wrong with formal education per se, but the twisted priority Americans place on it is wholly ungodly. Nevertheless, as the whole “debt-free virgins without tattoos” controversy proved, this fact doesn’t stop many Christians from siding with the world against the Church on this doctrine. For liberals, it’s a matter of saving the world; for conservatives, it’s a matter of mammon; but for both, the postwar fantasy of what education can achieve outweighs anything God has commanded us.
The nation-state is obsolete.
Here we find an inevitable consequence of all the previous points. If government is morally obligated to be democratic, and voters are all fungible blank slates formed by education, then the nation is an irrelevant concept. This view is so far advanced among us that many Americans don’t even recognize the difference between a nation (a group of people bound together by common ancestry, history, and heritage) and a state (a civil government) in the first place.
For Americans today, a nation is just a geographic entity whose only legitimate purpose is to help administrate the global citizens within its borders. And make no mistake, the typical American conservative holds this belief just as strongly as liberals–their only real deviation from the left is that “within its borders” must mean “legally within its borders.” There is no one left to care for Americans as a singular people–only as an arbitrary collection of atomized individuals which can be replaced in bulk without issue.
As ubiquitous as this belief is now, it only became so following WWII. Our leaders blamed nationalism for the conflict, and declared caring for one’s own people “too much” dangerous to world peace. The United Nations was established in the months following the war, and the idea of a global government that transcended nations states become truly institutionalized. And while many American conservatives remain dubious of the UN, they clearly do not object to the concept. After all, these are usually the same conservatives who think the United States should act as a global police force. For them, it’s only a matter of which bureaucracy carries out global governance better.
This notion of global citizens was facilitated among Americans by 20th Century rhetoric about immigration. Nobody called America a “melting pot” until 1908, and it wasn’t an American who came up with the idea. Today, most people will piously intone that America has always been a nation of immigrants, but we have not always seen ourselves as such. It was only in the 50’s that this phrase entered our lexicon. Only in the 60s did we stop being picky about what kind of immigrants would fit in with Americans and how many could be tolerated. It was only in the subsequent decades that enforcing our borders became a mere technicality.
But once again, this product of 20th Century politics is neither found in Scripture nor derived from sound theology. The Bible describes the nations we’re blithely trying to dissolve in a melting pot as God’s creation. It treats rule by foreigners as a curse. It establishes our duties to our families as a far higher priority than our duties to strangers. And as Luther explains in his Large Catechism, the 4th Commandment is the root of all civil government–it ought to be inherently familial. In short, God is not the one who has commanded us to take up this doctrine. So why are so many Christians willing to condemn their brothers for rejecting it?
I consider these four doctrines the core of the postwar consensus. But while Americans defend them with religious fervor, they are not doctrines of the Christian religion or even natural religion. On the contrary, they are foisted on us by the Spirit of the Age, and they lie at the root of all the biggest problems in America today.
Naturally, Christian Nationalists attempting to solve those problems are quite willing to attack these doctrines. While we ought to expect massive pushback from the world, it’s tragic that so much of it comes from fellow Christians who condemn us on the basis of their political preferences while pretending they do so at the command of Christ. Many of them don’t even realize who told them to be outraged at us.
American Christians need to take a long, hard look at who they’re truly serving. Do you really want Christ to return to find you beating your fellow servants? When He asks you why, do you really think “they denied the postwar consensus!” will be adequate? The Christian Faith has existed since the Fall and transcends nations, states, time, and space alike. We are in no way beholden to the postwar consensus; it’s time we start passing judgment on it and stop passing judgment on its behalf.