Crossing the Ford of Jabbok:

The Original “Culture War”.


“Culture War” has now become a hackneyed phrase which is almost devoid of its actual meaning. It is used in a flippant and trivial way without any real or thoughtful consideration of its origins, which date back to religious persecution in nineteenth century Germany.


(Picture is of Cologne Cathedral).

In Biblical times Jacob wrestled with the Angel and this became a pattern of struggle throughout history. There has always been a very real conflict between defending personal conviction or belief against the oppression and dominance of majority opinion.


In 1873 the German Government perceived a growing threat from the Catholic Church and they grew sufficiently alarmed by their influence to introduce legislation. These became known as the “Falk Laws”. These laws limited Catholic participation in areas like education. However many priests faced persecution for simply providing religious education in private homes and anyone who assisted them faced fines, arrests and imprisonment. In 1874 the Bishop of Trier Matthias Eberhard died after serving nine months in prison. Other clergy lost their livelihoods entirely.


In the face of oppression and persecution many German Catholics sought asylum. In 1875 an emigrant ship bound for New York left from the port of Bremen. The voyage was intended to include Southampton but disaster unfolded when the ship struck a sandbank on the Thames Estuary. All of the 57 passengers who died were German Catholics and this included 5 nuns.


It is time that we acknowledged the courage of the real fighters in the culture war and put aside the petty squabbling that is erroneously attributed to a supposed culture war which hasn`t actually lead to persecution and death.

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