Life As A Monk
by Kathleen A. Ervin
Harvest Rock Syndicate, Vol 6, Issue 1
It is a Sunday afternoon concert and a packed house including a busload of bare Baptist youth, waiting for the show to begin. Backstage the tour de force known as Rich Mullins' The World as Best as I Remember It 1991-92 tour is about to begin. Jeff Sack, Avenue G., Rebecca and Greg Sparks, and Beaker are gearing up for a music lover's delight - three hours of pure unadulterated talent, lights and sound. Mullins and his entourage have never sounded or looked so good. Those familiar with Mullins' performing style settle in for a casual afternoon of spectacular group effort.
Unnoticed to anyone, there is a bit of a ripple as the curtain stage right is parted and Mullins quietly walks out and removes the obligatory American flag standing there. Before the concert has begun, before a note has been sung, Mullins, like he so often does, has made a statement and the Baptist kids didn't even notice.
The flag episode, sure to make his record company and management firm groan, comments on his feelings about the government, the United States of America, if you will, humanity's continued inhumanity to itself and a government that uses our taxes to support it. For Mullins has definite feelings about our government and its treatment of its citizens. As a matter of fact, Mullins has definite feelings about everything and is quite able and eloquent to share them. This is particularly noteworthy in a music business that does so well in homogenizing artists' opinions and notions. Mullins puts politics, so prevalent in 'secular' music back into contemporary Christian music. Sure, Mullins may be a publicist's nightmare because of his unpredictability, some may even say eccentricity, but the man - self-proclaimed life-long student - knows his stuff with encyclopedia-like accuracy. Or at least it sounds like he does.
There is more to this pop-producing hit master than meets the eye or should we say ear? For one man's pop is another man's poetry and Mullins is nobody's fool.
Today's topic du jour is the activities surrounding Operation Rescue in Wichita, Kansas. Mullins who has taken a break from his studio work on The World as Best as I Remember It, Vol. II, has just participated in a benefit concert for the organization and has been visibly moved by the tens of thousands of people--some of which are his friends who are determined to make a stand in the state that still allows third trimester abortions. Talk of his latest album, his current studio work on Vol. II, the Kids of Brother Frank his workshop program for young adults, and several #1 hits bring us back to the happenings in Wichita. As Mullins says, "Wichita is a good place to be."
"This issue for me is when does a person become a human being. If we as a society are going to try in some minimal way to secure rights for people - how far does that extend? I don't know why abortion is such a big issue in the Church. It shouldn't be. The basic question everyone is grappling with is, 'are fetus people worthy of basic legal rights?' That's ultimately more essential than when does a person become a person. Do you become a person at 12? Do you stop being a person when you're 70?
"At one point our government didn't believe Indians were people and the Church was silent. At one point our government believed that blacks - male blacks - were 3/5 a person and the Church was silent."
Mullins is frustrated with the Church with a capital "C". He is frustrated in its impotency and its inability to agree on the little issues, let alone the big ones. "The Church has got to be a conscience in the society it's in. Otherwise what's the point of having a Church? The government cannot make people moral by legislating morality and in many cases that's what its laws are trying to do. The Church on the other hand, has the ability to make people new."
Back to the issue of human rights Mullins continues. "It's this arbitrary thing that people get into saying that you're a human when you've reached a certain age. For me that's not much different than saying you're human when your skin is a certain pigment. Look how far we have come as a nation in designating laws for humanity only to become less and less humane as a population."
Is Mullins concerned with his outspokenness? "A lot of people have a hang-up with talking about morality because they know they're immoral. I wish I had the kind of integrity in my life where I could take a moral position without being embarrassed by my own sins, but that's not the case. I think that a lot of people are afraid of conflict, but conflict exists even if you put your head underneath the covers." Obviously Mullins is not hiding.
With a full concert tour for 1992, this time with Jimmy A joining the entourage, Mullins' dance card appears to remain full. Future plans of writing a book or two and extensive missionary work with Native Americans are just that, plans. He continues his weekend outings with the ever-present Beaker as a monk in disguise holding workshops on topics as wide as God's grace and the Beatitudes to spiritually hungry youth. For now Mullins continues making his pop masterpieces for the masses poignantly mixing insightful lyrical recollections with some of the most generous and lush musical themes to be found anywhere. Reflecting on life as it is, how he hopes it could be and most generally on life as best as he can remember it.