Here are five things you might not know about my favorite songwriter Rich Mullins, who died seventeen years ago this month.
1. He moved to the Navajo Indian Reservation at the height of his career because he "got tired of a white, evangelical, middle-class perspective on God, and I thought I'd have more luck finding God among the 'pagan' Navajos." He didn't teach music on the reservation as a "ministry," just said he was being who God made him to be.
2. Once at a fancy banquet in Nashville following the Dove Awards, Rich was uncomfortable. He went into the kitchen, found a catering uniform, and started serving desserts behind the dessert bar.
3. His break-up song "We Are Not As Strong As We Think We Are" wasn't a personal song. He and Beaker wrote it together because they thought there weren't enough break-up songs on Christian radio. They took turns writing lines and tried to make it hard for the other guy to rhyme.
4. He spent a year at Wheaton College working on a musical based on the life of Francis of Assisi. While there, Shane Claiborne met him and was moved by what he shared in chapel one week (Listen to that chapel message, esp. minutes 26-34).
5. Producer Reed Arvin wrote a novel about his experiences working in the CCM industry, and the ways that business and ministry were conflated, the ways that young artists were not always shepherded but sometimes manipulated and used. The main character looks a lot like Rich.
I wrote about all the things I love about Rich Mullins (and tried to convince the skeptics to love him too) at Art House America. But the piece isn't really about Rich so much as it's about me, the way I wanted to be lit by the prophetic fire that lit him, the way I came out charred but certain, for the first time, that there was a God, and that God is love.
"I have failed enough that I believe that it's not the end of the world to make mistakes...So I'm not nearly as threatened by my own failures. I used to be a lot more ambitious than I am now. I was a bit of a go-getter, very uptight about everything. At 36, you kinda sit back and you go, wow, I've really made a lot of mistakes and...every morning the sun comes up anyway."