The Jungle

According to Lucas, who is the true founder of the Socialist movement? Why does Sinclair weave so much scripture into this chapter?

Chapter XXXI.

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The first debate of the evening begins between two of the Socialist Party members, a former professor named Nicholas Schliemann and a former itinerant preacher named Lucas. Schliemann comments that the final great battle of the socialist movement will be between the Socialist Party and the Catholic Church. Religion, he says, is an opiate of the masses and has no place in the future socialist world. He tells the group that religion is a fraud that perpetrates the imbalance of power. Lucas, a former evangelical preacher, attempts to defend the word of God, “which is one long cry of the human spirit for deliverance from the sway of oppression.” Lucas goes down a list of passages from the Bible and stories of Biblical figures that represent the tenets of socialism. His most ardent argument is for Jesus Christ whom he says “denounced in unmeasured terms the exploiters of his own time” and was crucified for upsetting the social order. He gives a long speech on the merits of Christianity as being harmonious with Socialism, and in the end, Schliemann accepts his proposal.

The discussion between Lucas and Schliemann allows Sinclair to elaborate on the breadth of the socialist movement. Lucas’s argument that Christianity can be fully reconciled with the political aspirations of socialism demonstrates the thinking of the Social Gospel movement. This movement, unofficially led by pastors and writers who often ministered in the country’s working class slums, seeks to portray the Christian church as originally a socialist movement. Their goal is to reclaim the social message of the gospel and to support socialist political goals.