Rich Mullins

Shane Claiborne posted this moving tribute to Rich Mullins today.* 

A little tribute to Rich Mullins.

20 years ago today --Sept.19,1997-- musical legend Rich Mullins died in a tragic car accident.

I know many of you don't know his name -- he died before you were born... he lived before the internet was much of a thing... before Facebook, way before Twitter, etc. I know it's hard to imagine that ancient world back in the 1900s.

But Rich Mullins is a name I want us to pass on to our kids and grandkids.

He had Quaker roots, and you could hear his disdain for violence in his songs, with lyrics like: "Why do the nations rage? Why do they plot and scheme? The bullets can't stop the prayers we pray in the name of the Prince of Peace."

He often joked about how surprising it was that so many evangelicals took him seriously. He said things that--even though they came straight from the Gospels-- were at odds with what had come to characterize much of evangelicalism in the 1980s and 1990s.

Here's one of my favorite quotes:

“Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken... This, I know, will go against the teachings of all the popular evangelical preachers. But they're wrong. They are not bad, they're just wrong.” -- Rich Mullins (he said that in the 1990s)

I can remember when I was at Wheaton College. Rich spoke in chapel and told this very evangelical audience essentially this: "You're all into the 'born-again' thing. And that's great -- Jesus said that to a man named Nicodemus, to enter the Kingdom of God you need to be born again... But if you tell me that I've got to be born again, I can tell you that you need to sell everything you have and give it to the poor. Because Jesus said that to one guy too. But I guess that's why God invented highlighters... so we can highlight the parts we like."

That's what I love about Rich -- he spoke truth, and laughed as he did it. He had the winsomeness of a kid, and the wisdom of an elder.

There's an old story about Rich and his buddy riding on a train. As they travelled, they began to share some of their deepest struggles, pouring out their souls, including some of the not-so-pretty stuff. As they arrived at the station, one of the passengers in front of them recognized Rich, and said, "Excuse me, are you Rich Mullins?" Rich said that he immediately began to rehearse in his mind all of the things she might have heard him say... and he had to decide whether or not he was Rich Mullins. And of course, he looked her in the face, smiling, and said, "Yes... I am Rich Mullins." He owned his funk, and he gave us permission to own ours.

He struggled with his own darkness, loneliness, sexuality. And because of that, he is an inspiration to all ragamuffins. He's a reminder that the world out there is not looking for Christians who are perfect, but they are looking for Christians who are honest.

When people remind me that the church is full of hypocrites I often say -- inspired by Rich-- "No we aren't full of hypocrites... we always have room for more." Rich Mullins reminds us that this whole Christian thing is not about how good we are, but how good God is. The Church is a bunch of imperfect people falling in love with a perfect God, and hopefully becoming more like the one we Love.

I had the honor of spending some time with Rich (I ended up being in a musical with him about the life of St. Francis). I wrote this little blurb about him a while back:

“Rich Mullins is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever known. Interesting because he was honest — not perfect. He made you feel like Jesus was right beside you -- part of the band, telling stories around the fire, laughing with you at the bar. He made you feel like you could own your darkness and be honest with your doubts. He knew that inside each of us there is a sinner and a saint at war, and on good days the saint prevails, and on bad days... Jesus loves sinners. He is one of the most important people in the history of modern evangelicalism, a ragamuffin that our children and our grandchildren need to know about.”

I'm going to go listen to some Rich Mullins, starting with the song I danced to on my wedding day, "If I Stand."

It goes like this...
"So if I stand, let me stand on the promise that You will pull me through... And if I can't let me fall on the grace that first brought me to You."

Amen.

* https://www.facebook.com/ShaneClaiborne/posts/10154595684576371

No comments (Add your own)

Add a New Comment


code
 

Comment Guidelines: No HTML is allowed. Off-topic or inappropriate comments will be edited or deleted. Thanks.