The Penthouse Suite at the Shangri La, the tallest building in downtown Vancouver, recently sold for $16 million. Shangri La's developer says that the buyer probably won't live in the suite and may never know what it looks like. One block east, 150 of Vancouver's homeless lined up outside our doors, and down the block, so that they could eat.

When I was asked to write this item, I was asked to tackle the question, "Are we called to evangelism?" Let me put the question a little differently: Is there something valuable about our Christian faith, and is it important enough to share 

Here's my attempt at an answer. It begins with the assertion that the Bible is a counter-cultural text, and that Christianity is a counter-cultural movement. If the New Testament is a counter-cultural text, the dominant culture Jesus opposed was the Roman Empire.

The Roman Empire was a very bad place to be if you were a poor Jewish peasant. The Roman system siphoned power and untold wealth to elites, and broke the social bonds that protected the weakest and fed the hungry. In Caesar's kingdom, if you lost your land and your home, you would soon also lose your life, as you starved as an outcast of society. This system was blessed by religious authorities.

There was, in fact, a human being in the first century who was called 'Son of God,' and 'God from God,' whose titles were 'Lord,' 'Redeemer,' and 'Saviour of the World.' Most Christians probably think that those titles were originally created and uniquely applied to Christ. But before Jesus ever existed, all those terms belonged to Caesar Augustus.


Jesus' alternative was the Kingdom of God - a world where each person has dignity, where everybody has enough, and systems are fair. His 'Good News' was that the true Kingdom is already here; we have to enable it.

His strategy was the combination of free healing and common eating, symbolic acts which negated the symbols and social structures that supported Roman power. After his execution for high treason, Christians resurrected Jesus' message, and in applying to him Caesar's titles, denied them to Augustus.

Shangri La promises an earthly paradise, a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world, available only to a few that "deserve it." Its existence depends on our accepting that this is "the way things are," the modern equivalent to Caesar's divine right to rule.

Three weeks ago we at the Cathedral chose the alternative: the Kingdom of God. In the church hall downstairs, we shared a common meal with the city's poor and hungry. This simple act, in imitation of Jesus Christ and the nature of our compassionate God, brought into being, at least momentarily, the Kingdom that God would rule.

We are called to build a Divine Kingdom in the modern world, and to sustain it as its stewards. Our role, as evangelicals, is to model social justice in our time. When we articulate that the Kingdom of God movement is not about life in heaven after you die, but an active, living project of social justice that must be undertaken on earth, others will join us to replicate it.

Our duty is to subvert and confront the dominant culture with acts that challenge our cultural assumptions about prosperity, poverty, privilege, responsibility, merit, religion, and God, in the name of Jesus Christ, Chief Developer, President, CEO and Architect of Shangri La.

This article first appeared in Christ Church Cathedral's weekly bulletin.