Friday, October 22, 2010

"only You could make it what it had to be"

When I think about all the people whose personal example, words, writings, paintings, poems, and music have influenced me as a Christian, the life and music of Rich Mullins ranks towards the top of my list. He is a charter member of my community of the heart. His song Elijah is a good representative sample as to why this is.

"There's people been talking
They say they're worried about my soul
Well, I'm here to tell you I'll keep rocking
'Til I'm sure it's my time to roll
And when I do"

I am now and always will be a ragamuffin. Rich died in a horrific car crash in September 1997. He is still missed, but his unique legacy of faith in late (post?) modern America as expressed in his music lives on in the hearts, minds, iPods, tape decks, and computers of many. When I hear him now it is incredible to think he has been gone for 13 years.

Veni Sancte Spiritus, Veni per Mariam


  1. There is quite a bit of Christian contemporary music that is cheesy. But Rich Mullins was not one of those. He really was an excellent musician and songwriter.

    He was on a journey to Catholicism when he was tragically killed. I was an evangelical at that time, but his conversion to Catholicism was never talked about in those circles.

    Do you know anything about his conversion story? Was it difficult for him? I know, from my own experience, that there is a definate change in the way evangelicals relate to you when you become Catholic. (I was a pew warmer, turned bible thumpin evangelical, returned devout Catholic so that makes me a revert).

  2. Dan:

    You're correct. Anyone who thinks Rich's music is cheesy has never listened to him. Like Phil Keaggy amd Michael Card, whose music I also love, Mullins is a good musician and songwriter by any measure.

    Yes, he would have been a Catholic were it not for his untimely death. The inspiration behind the ragamuffins, the Raggamuffin Gospel, was St. Francis of Assisi, whom Rich sought to imitate. He lived in a trailer on an reservation where he spent most of his time just serving. There is such a deep connection between his music and his life, his ministry, his diakonia.

    As far as I can tell Rich becoming Catholic was such an organic thing. You can trace the development of his thought, his theology, in his songs, a trajectory from Bible thumpin' fundie to an evangelical Catholic. It's hard to say how becoming Catholic would have affected him as an artist. He was popular, but never played to huge crowds, or even sold huge numbers of albums. I think his popular song was Amy Grant's recording of Sing Your Prasie to the Lord. He told a funny story about driving somewhere with a priest friend when Amy came on the radio singing that song. The priest, not knowing Rich wrote it, said "I love this song." I'm pretty sure Rich would've said nothing. He always seemed embarassed when he was lionzed, or put on a pedastal.


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