constitution - without any reference to religion or divine grace. Nevertheless, over the course of the Kulturkampf, the equation of Protestantism with German nationalism became routine not just for cultural Protestants, but for Protestant Germany in general. The anti-Catholic legislation did not itself change the minds of church authorities and conservatives. Rather, the shift stemmed principally from German Protestantism's status as a state religion (Staatsreligion), where the head of the state was also the head of the church. With the Kaiserreich legitimately established, church authorities transferred obedience to king and state to the new emperor and nation. Pastors celebrated the emperor's birthday and the anniversary of the German victory at Sedan as religious events. Church leaders, like Oberkirchenrat President Herrmann, proclaimed the church's duty to help the nation develop its most noble powers and overcome its gravest weaknesses. Protestant ministers also joined in the attacks on Catholicism, which now appeared as unrepentant foe of both Protestantism and the nation-state.
So strong was the ecclesiastical and conservative investment in the idea of the Protestant empire that Protestants became alarmed at Catholic efforts at reconciliation with the German national state, particularly the repeal of major elements of Kulturkampf legislation. Thus in 1887 Willibald Beyschlag organised the 'Protestant League for the Defence ofGerman-Protestant Interests' (Evangelischer Bund) to prevent further appeasement of Catholic interests and counter political Catholicism's rising influence. In the 1890s, other ultranationalist organisations, including the Agrarian, Colonial and Navy Leagues, took up this cause, openly opposing efforts to repeal the anti-Jesuit laws and vigorously protesting against decisions like the 1901 appointment of Martin Spahn, the son of a major Centre Party official, to the University of Strasbourg's history faculty.
Still, many Germans bemoaned the nation's confessional divisions. In the final decades of the century, men like Paul de Lagarde, Julius Langbehn and Arthur Bonus called for healing the rift by 'Germanising' Christianity. They advocated stripping Christianity of its foreign influences so that it expressed the healthy values and virtues of the German people (Volk), a sentiment that also infused Richard Wagner's final opera, Parsifal. Extreme as these notions were, they indicate that the basic understanding of Germany as a Christian nation remained intact, despite the era's confessional polemics. Thus, in its founding charter of 1876, the German Conservative Party noted that, although the dominant religion of the German nation was Lutheran Protestantism, the party strove, more generally, to preserve 'the religious life of the German people, maintain and strengthen the Christian ecclesiastical
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