Love Talks Radio Interview
Interviewed by Foster Braun
WWCM Detroit, MI October 1988
Foster Braun: I love it! That is a very special introduction to our very special guest in the second hour of this program. His name is Rich Mullins and Rich, normally that song does not have a piano accompaniment...
Rich: Normally not. Probably better off without it.
Foster Braun: (Laughter) I'm glad you did it. Something we have not done before with another guest and we thought we'd try it with you since you seem to be willing to almost try anything..
Rich: I will try anything.
Foster Braun: Yes - once at least... is to put a piano in the studio here. Yes, your very own.
Rich, thank you so much for being here and boy am I glad you're in town.
Rich: Boy am I glad to be here.
Foster Braun: Rich, you are I think probably known more to us now as a singer as well, but you were known long before we ever heard "Screen Door on a submarine" and other things - "Verge of a Miracle".. you were also a songwriter.
Rich: Yeah, I think I'm a better songwriter than I am a singer.
Foster Braun: Which do you prefer?
Rich: Well, I like singing except that I think I have a horrible voice.
Foster Braun: What?!?
Rich: I think I have a bad voice. I mean like, the way I sound now - I sound like kind of Jerry Lewis/Minnie Mouse mixture with a cold, post nasal drip the whole thing. I'm the most ill-equipped singer in the world. So I'm much more comfortable playing piano and writing except no one hears me except me - and God, and God really isn't picky.
Foster Braun: God and God alone listneing to you. So it's been something that has been thrust upon you in some ways?
Rich: Yeah but it is fun! I mean what I like about a concert is my audience... I mean audiences - they can be really, really a drag or they can be really neat. They either make it happen or they really kill you.
Foster Braun: That twinkle in your eye - It seems if you can catch the audience and they can kind of get hold of your unique way of looking at life you can have a lot of fun with them...
Rich: I think people who are open to having fun, do have fun. I mean it's so different from setting to setting and audience to audience. If you go into an audience and they don't come in with a lot of preconcieved notions about what a Christian music concert is all about and they are open and willing to do some things with ya - man you have a great time. But if you go in and they're like, 'This is a sacred music concert and we're going to clap like adults.' You know, then it's a real drag.
Foster Braun: (Laughter) I mean this as a compliment. You have a real child like nature about you just in terms of the songs - The Lord said unless we become like little Children we're not going to get to Heaven. I really find that in your music... it sounds like that's what you look for in your concerts too?
Rich: I hope that's true. I think growing up was a very dull process that led to nowhere so I just inverted the whole thing. Because I was a real serious kid. I mean I think I'm still serious, I'm just serious about not being serious anymore. Is that weird?
Foster Braun: No, not at all. What I find in your music is - both lyrically and in terms of the music is a willingness to kind of experiment with lyrical content and also musical arrangements - like the accapella version there with the... sounded like hambone in the background
Rich: Yeah, that was one guy doing that - isn't that cool? That was my producer Reed Arvin and he's a great guy.
Foster Braun: And that's just hand clappin and knee slapping and the harmonizing was outstanding in that. But you seem to be interested in kind of exploring areas both lyrically and musically that aren't kind of run of the mill things that are being done
Rich: Well see I think that the mistake that a lot of writers make and a lot of people make is that they feel like if you're going to write Christian music there are certain things that you write about - you write about your conversion experience, you write about religious themes, you write about this... but when I read the scriptures I find that people talked about practical, very every-day things. Christianity is supposed to have an effect on the way we look at everything. I mean if you're a Christian, then it should have some effect on the way you blow your nose for example.. you should approach everything from a Christian point of view. And I also think some artists have almost gone the other extreme where they're almost afraid to talk about Jesus at all..
Foster Braun: yeah, it's almost like fill in the blank here... him or her could almost be anybody...
Rich: Yeah like all the "you" songs. I mean I can kind of understand why they've done that, except that... you know I was so glad on the last album that I wrote the song "Such A Thing As Glory" because it kind of spells out exactly who Jesus was. One of the coolest things that happened was when we were in Dallas we stopped at one of these little 24 hour gas station/restaurant/landromat and bookstore. So I went in and the guy running the place was Iranian. He got out of Iran when (the Shah left) and the Ayatollah came in. So this guy evidently was a rich guy in Iran and was American-backed and then when they kicked America out he left too. And he wants to go back to Iran - well I met him and I gave him a tape and I thought man, what better could I leave in his hands than a tape that says 'there was a man named Jesus He was God and He was flesh and He came down here to lead us out of this burning wilderness. He took upon our shoulders, our sin, our shame, our death and there is such a thing as glory.' so I was really excited about that.
Foster Braun: It seems like we're kind of at a critcal point for Christian artists - We've had the public scandals of the Bakers and the Swaggarts that have happened and there have been rumbles that things like this have been going on in Christian music too. Don Francisco recently came out and bless his heart for confessing that pornography had been a real bondage for him for a long time reading it... we almost seem to be at a place where people are going to have to make their minds up. Whether they want to conform to the culture around them or if they want to have a message, and a music that kind of cuts a new frontier as Christians. Am I right in that perception?
Rich: I think you're really right and that's one of the frustrations that a lot of Chritian musicians have. One thing I find really objectionable in the whole industry is that they're always wanting to say this guy sounds like this guy, and this guy sounds like this guy - or when you're going in to make a record they say well we want this record to sound like this secular artist. And my thing is, since when should the church ever be imitating the world? Bach set the standard for western music ever since he wrote. He was THE Christian music and western music has never recuperated from the impact that Bach had on it because he was a sincere man, he was a man of great integrity and what he did musically had the effect that it should have had. Because he was what he should have been. I think a Christian musician... a Christian anybody should be wrapped up in finding the Lord and finding the Lord's will for their lives and not worried about what the world says about it. You know what I mean is?
Foster Braun: Yeah, I've talked with people like Philip Bailey who said the fact that I have a talent as a musician - and an artistic talent is almost like painting. To use the anaology if I was a painter, to be a Christian painter that doesn't mean I would paint crucifixes all of the time. That I could paint any number of different kinds of subjects. How about musically, how does that apply to you?
Rich: I write an awfully lot about Christ. I do think that a Christian job is to... if we are light in the world - the interesting thing about light is that you can't see it. The interesting thing about light is that you see everything in light of it but you can't see light itself. If it wasn't for dust in the air you wouldn't even see light beams. What you see when you see beams of light is you see these dust motes that are being lit up by light. A christians job is to put things in light of who Christ is. In light of what reality is, in light of what the truth is. I don't think it's always our job to point to the sun - to point to the source of the light and say 'look at that, look at that, look at that.' Because if you do, you'll never see it - you'll go blind. But when you begin to see things as the light exposes them...
Foster Braun: Different areas of life is what you're saying..
Rich: Right. I do personally feel a personal need to talk about who Jesus is because I really think until I came to meet Him - until the reality of the Lordship of Christ really impacted my life... I think I had a lot of neat ideas, I think I had a lot of fun, I think life was pretty much ok. But, there's only one way to the Father and that's through Christ. If I fail to communicate that, then I have failed.
Foster Braun: Now, I saw in some of your biographical material, you grew up in a Christian home?
Rich: Yeah, it was great.
Foster Braun: ... and you were in Christian singing groups, etc.. it sounds like this was something that happened a little while ago?
Rich: It's something that continues to happen.
Foster Braun: It continues to happen.
Rich: Yeah, like I was baptised in the 3rd grade right and I knew when I was baptised that it was for the remission of sin and to recieve the Holy spirit. So I made I think a very adult, a very mature decision. I realized that I had sinned. I knew that I wanted the Holy Spirit, I knew that I wanted to be a Christian and that was in the teaching of my church and the teaching that I believed to be true the initiatory right into the faith. So I understood that. But, at 33 that means a lot more to me than it did when I was in the third grade just like one time that I was talking to my dad and I said 'how did you know that you loved mom?' and he said, 'I didn't. I didn't even know what love was. When I married your mom, I didn't know what love was. Now that I've lived with her and I've learned all of her quirks and I've seen what makes her tick and all of that stuff. Now I can really say I love her.'
I think Christianity is the kind of thing, if your faith is vital, it's going to continue to deepen and it's going to continue to expand.
Foster Braun: Rich Mullins, our guest here on Love Talk, so welcome back to the program. Rich is here with me in the studios and we've even got a piano here in front of him and he's been accompanying some of the tunes as we've been playing them as well making them something unique and original... actually everything you do is unique and original Rich. That's what I find refreshing. You can never tell what is going to happen next.
I have heard that there have been a number of different kind of influences both on your songwriting and on your music and John Lennon is one of them.. the former Beatle. Tell me about that?
Rich: Well I think - you know when you're a kid, your experience does not go much beyond that adolescent kind of anger - you know what I mean is? And I think John Lennon had that in his music. And so I think I made a real strong identification with him at some point. Like Junior High, maybe 6th or 7th grade. Well first of all the Beatles were my big heroes because I was a total geek. I mean I grew up in a little farming school community.. went to a little county school and if you don't play basketball in rural Indiana, you're like nothing. Well I can't even walk at the same time, let alone walk and chew gum at the same time. Or dribble a ball. I mean I could dribble it if I could stand still, but I was no fun to play ball with so I was the school geek - until the Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan show and then I looked at them and I went I could be amazing, because I could do that. And women were screaming everywhere....
Foster Braun: (Laughter) Suddenly a date for the prom was not out of question?
Rich: Suddenly things were looking promising. I decided rather of playing the little John Thompson songs, I was going to start playing Beatles songs. And when I could play "I Want To Hold Your Hand".. I played it at recess during the winter when we had to play inside and I played it on the piano. And I was a hit. Rosella Ross kissed me. I'll never forget it.
Foster Braun: So it became a doorway for you really into expressing the talents that you had?
Rich: ...And just into social acceptability.
Foster Braun: (Laighter) And no longer a leper socially in the school? And as you're going on and as you've seen the path that John Lennon's life took, what impressions have that left you with? I know there's a movie coming out I think called "Imagine"...
Rich: Yeah, I think people are just desperate for heroes. And I think John Lennon said the right things, I don't think he lived the right things. And I'm not sure that everything he said was even right. In fact, there's a lot that I really have some trouble with. I think the world is in such desperate need of heroes that anyone we have the opportunity to put up on a pedestal...
Foster Braun: Who are some of yours?
Rich: Some of my own personal heroes? They're very personal.. my great grandmother is a big hero of mine. She raised three kids pretty much by herself and never lost her faith in the midst of an awful lot of tribulation. She was quaker, but she was spunky enough that she would wear beads.
Foster Braun: For quakers that was spunky?
Rich: That was very spunky. In fact, she would wear tons of beads - I mean it wasn't like she would wear one. Growing up, they weren't allowed to talk at the table like when they ate. She had a very strict father. When she was an old woman she decided that it was ok to wear jewlery ... you know as long as she wasn't all wrapped up in it. Of course necklaces you're pretty wrapped up in because you put it around you. But she would wear several different strands of really horrible looking beads. She always went for the cheap - if she had been in third grade it would have been ok. But I always liked that about her. It always looked so tacky, but it was cool. She didn't mind being tacky.
My grandpa Dean was a big hero of mine. My grandma and grandpa Mullins - they were hillbillies who rose above their situation. My grandpa looked at my Dad when my Dad was 14 and said I don't want my son to be a coal miner like I am. We're moving to Indiana. They ran out of gas somewhere around Greenfield, Indiana and decided to stay there because they couldn't go any farther. Which is the difference between people in Indiana and people in Detroit - Indiana is entirely populated by hillbillies who were on their way to Detroit to get jobs.
Detroit is half populated by the hillbillies that had gas.
Foster Braun: (Laughter) Now, there's a lot of folks out there who come from that section of the country, and I want you to know -- that's Rich that said it and not me, ok? And he comes from that background and so...
Rich: Hey, I love it. I was really embarassed by it when I was a kid. I mean I really was. My moms family, they were all from Richmond, IN and they all had a little bit of an education and all of that. And I really wanted to be like that because - taking piano lessons, you're kind of... a lot of the kids I took piano lessons with.. I remember going to the recitals and you know Dr. Guthrie and his wife and this person and this person.. and my mom, no make up, no earrings. She just looked like plain Jane and my Dad, his pants never fit him right and he had a geek burr haircut and I was really embarassed by him and then all of a sudden - we went to Kentucky. We went to Kentucky all of the time it's like the Jews going to the wailing wall. We would go down to Kentucky but I remember one particular time my Dad took me back to the family grounds and was telling me the story of each of the head stones - each person. Telling me about how they lived and how they died and what was going on and...
Foster Braun: A real sense of roots..
Rich: Yeah! And you realize how much suffering was involved in their lives and you realize what an incredible thing even to survive. So I have a great respect. I used to think creative people were musicians and artists and like that. And then I started paying attention to how my Dad farms. And I started to pay attention to the amount of creativity he had to use in order to make the farm work. And I began to realize, you know... James was right. You don't judge people by what they wear. James was right. Then I decided you know, if you can't be proud of where you come from you ain't never gonna have no pride. So you'd better take pride. And I don't mean pride like being puffed up, I mean in having a sense of self esteem.
Foster Braun: Yeah, a healthy sense of self esteem - of really being thankful in many ways of the things that God has allowed in your life. I visited my folks a few weeks ago down in North Carolina and the Ashville area, up in the Blue Ridge - actually a section of the Smokey's, and somebody said it's fascinating to see the life that people led back there all tucked away in those little valleys and it must have taken a tremendous amount of courage to live in those kinds of situations and there's a real nobility and I think... I see your songs and your lyrics as kind of returning to those kinds of simpler images. The "Screen Door in a Submarine" just happens to stick in my head as one. 'A faith without works is dead' is the scriptural truth there but the images are very simple ones. They're very down to earth.
Rich: That came from a shocking discovery about C.S. Lewis. I've been a big C.S. Lewis fan all of my life - well, not all of my life but... when I was about the 9th or 10th Grade my pastor gave me Mere Christianity to read because at the time I was so open minded I was like, 'well Yes I'm a Christian because Jesus works for me, but if Buddha works for you, or herroin works for you, or whatever works for you is fine.' And he was one of the people who really confronted me about that kind of mindset and gave me Mere Christianity to read. I think I was a pretty smart kid, I was way ahead in school and I think I took an awful lot of pride in being smart. And so I was very careful to have the intelligentsia kind of opinion. Then when I read C.S. Lewis I mean here was a guy who obviously was way beyond me and yet he believed in a very fundamental kind of Gospel. Which, now looking back I'm sorry that I had to win the approval of someone other than God in order to become serious about my commitment to Christ. It always kind of bothers me when people say, 'Well Science supports the Bible,' because I'm always like, 'Who Cares?' If it doesn't, then it's wrong. And just because someone has more of what we value than we do thinks Christianity is cool, it still isn't any cooler than it was when Jesus was the only one who thought it was cool. You know what I mean is?
Foster Braun: Yeah, exactly.
Rich: So, um... but anyway... where in the world were we going with this?
Foster Braun: We were talking about the simpler images that C.S. Lewis had..
Rich: Oh that's right. For having such a muddled mind it's amazing I can come up with any images. But anyway.... (Laughter)
So, C.S. Lewis became a big hero of mine and then I read in his forward to A Book of Poems, which is really hard to find I mean you have to order the book ordinarily... he talked about how there was a school of thinking that said that the great poets were those that had the very personal and out of the way insights and all of that and he said that he really believed that great poetry came because someone was able to see the universal things and someone was able to articulate what everyone was feeling. And I began to realize, wow that's really when I am struck by a poem is when I feel like if I had thought of that first I would have written it. Because I felt that a million times but I was never able to put it into words. Which is Tolstoy's whole thing that the only real art is folk art. And Henry Nouwen who is a great, great thinker and I think an important Christian writer talks about in his book called The Wounded Healer talks about how the job of the Christian minister is to identify the sufferings of his age in his own life and then articulate that.
Foster Braun: Do you see yourself along those lines as a Christian minister?
Rich: Well, I think if you're a Christian, saying you're a Christian minister is like saying you're a Christian Christian.
Foster Braun: Yes, redundant.
Foster Braun: You see what you're doing is more than just writing songs?
Rich: Oh, I hope.
Foster Braun: You are doing that. You are looking at those experience that are universal experiences and capturing them in phrases and - phrases both musical and lyrical - to which people can identify with?
Rich: Hopefully, yeah. That's kind of my goal, I mean that's what I want to do.
Foster Braun: We're going to take another break right now and as we do, we're going to hear some of the music that you've written called "Verge of A Miracle." Which is a beautiful song. We've had so many of your songs that have come through recently and have been so darn popular and I'm glad for them because they are better than the average bear as they say. We'll be back in just a moment - Rich Mullins is our guest on Love Talks and we'll return to our conversation with him in just a moment. Don't forget - you're welcome to joint he conversation.
["Verge of A Miracle"]
Foster Braun: I've got an electric piano sitting on the table here and Rich as a matter of fact is ...
[Rich playing Electric piano]
Foster Braun: (Laughter) Thank you Rich Mullins. They guarantee you they will not be beaten.
[Rich playing Electric piano - Mozart's Piano Sonata No 16 in C Major, K. 545 "Sonata Facile": I Allegro]
Foster Braun: (Laughter) And that ladies and gentlemen is Rich Mullins.
Foster Braun: Rich Mullins, our guest in the studio here. You're welcome to call us on the phones. We'd love to hear from you and as a matter of fact, we've got somebody on the line right now. Hello, you are on the air with Rich Mullins and Foster Braun.
Caller: Yeah. Hi Rich, this is Rick (?) I worked with you at Camp up at Rock Lake..
Caller: ... and I just wanted to let everybody know that Rich is great and he has come to camp - I don't know when the last time was, but a few years in a row and done free concerts and he's just great. The kids love him.
Foster Braun: What camp was that?
Caller: Rock Lake Christian Assembly in Vestaburg, Michigan.
Foster Braun: Rock Lake Christian Assembly....
Rich: Rock Lake Christian.. it's a great camp.
Foster Braun: I don't think I.. in Vestaburg?
Foster Braun: Where is that located?
Rich: It's right in the palm of the hand.
Foster Braun: Oh... right there in the middle of the state?
Rich: Rick, are you coming tonight?
Caller: I'm gonna try!
Rich: Well you better!
Foster Braun: You better more than try.
Caller: I have a request - Rich probably won't like to do this, but he did a song a long time ago called "Seminary Girl"
Rich: Ooooohhhhhh no, no, no, no, no, no.... I hate you! (Laughter) You know what? I forget it.
Foster Braun: Sure he does.
Rich: God has been kind.
Caller: Or "Promenade," I haven't heard that on an album either..
Rich: You know what - if you come tonight, I'll play it for you personally but I can't play it on the air.
Caller: Oh ok.
Rich: It's not registered.
Foster Braun: Thanks for calling. Now I notice, that in looking at some of your biographical material that there was a point in time - and I wanted to ask you about this because it kind of fascinated me, that you wrote "Sing Your Praise to the Lord" for Amy - Amy sang that one. And then... Debby Boone's "O Come All Ye Faithful," and Amy's "Doubly Good," and in 1983 you kind of took a sabatical. You kind of just left everything and went to become a music director up in Grand Rapids? Why what happened?
Rich: Well, I had been engaged and we broke up and I hated being in Nashville with people I didn't know because everybody felt so sorry for you, you know? It was like, 'Oh, we're so sorry.' And I was like, 'Oh, please don't give me that.' I really don't need that. What I really need is to be around people who know me a little bit better. And I had spent my summers - in fact, my drummer in my band - and I've been his camp counselor since he was in the 7th grade. So I knew a lot of people up at the church and plus at the time I was just writing and not doing a whole lot else and you become really self absorbed when you do that. I think too much inrospection is the devil's playground. The happiest I had ever been in my whole life was when I was working with other people and that sort of thing. And if there is any joy in the Christian life, it is the joy that we have from being able to hopefully bring other people into a greater understanding of things..
Foster Braun: What must it have been like to be in that church and have you as a music director? That must have been a trip!
Rich: I'm a terrible music director! (Laughter) I'm not an overly humble person. I think I'm a very good writer and I think I'm a talented musician. But I'm also very disorganized and kind of a procrastinator and a little bit of a goof off and... we had a wonderful time.
Foster Braun: The worship services must have been marvelous.. spontaneous?
Rich: Yeah.... yeah... spontaneity I thrive on.
Foster Braun: Yes! Yes, that much I kind of gathered from it. I also know that recently you took a trip to the Orient, I understand... That you went to Thailand. Tell me about that.
Rich: Uh huh. Yeah, that was amazing.
Foster Braun: What took you there in the first place?
Rich: Well, it was just a great thing.. I'm hoping to go back, you know, in about seven years. I'm going back to school and I want to end up being a missionary. Well, I don't want to end up being a missionary, what I want to do is go over there and serve for about ten years and then come back. It'd be kind of fun to come back and maybe teach in a University or something...
Foster Braun:I hear people saying, 'Rich! You'd leave all of this, all the notoriety and everything to go over there?'
Rich: Well, yeah it's not that big a deal. I think maybe if I was like Michael Jackson or somebody it would be a little more difficult.
Foster Braun:(Laughter) He'd probably draw crowds over there anyway too...
Rich: Yeah. But anyway, we got to go to Korea. Well first of all, I met this missionary from Korea and she said, 'Man, we would love to have you come over.' And I was like, 'Oh, babies, I would love to go over there.' But you know there's just not that big of a chance and she said well if you're ever in the neighborhood, here's my number and she gave me this information. Well not too long after that an Organization called Christ in Youth asked me if I would go as a sponsor on a missions trip to Thailand. And so I said, 'yeah I would love to.' Then I remembered this missionary that I had talked to and I wrote her and I said, 'hey as a matter of fact, I am going to be in the neighborhood.' They wanted me to come because they were getting ready for the Olympics. This is the wild thing about the Korean Christians was that they were going, 'what a wonderful opportunity to witness to Americans.' To the heathen Americans. And so they wanted me to come over to the seminary...
Foster Braun:(Laughter) From seeing how they behaved in the opening ceremony of the Olympics, I think they were right...
Rich: I got to spend a week in a Korean seminary teaching conversational English. Just like things like how to say 'hi,' some quirks about Americans and how we're different than Koreans and just talking about what its like to be an American and what they can expect from us and some great one-liners to use. (Laughter) ... in a Christian kind of way. That sounded bad.. wow.
Foster Braun:This wasn't like Robin Williams in Good Morning Viet Nam...
Rich: No, well we did things like when you meet a southerner (in an exaggerated southern accent) and they sound like this when they talk to you, you say, 'well, you'all come back now, ya'hear?' So it was always great because they would go, (in broken English) 'so you come back now, you hear?' It was always interesting inflections. They had trouble pulling off a southern accent, but other than that, that was really neat. And then we went to Japan and did some concerts in Japan, I had a friend that I went to school with that I got to see and that was great. Then we went to Thailand and we were two miles from the Burma border and we were working with Chinese Refugees and these people were really sad I mean they got kicked out of China when the Commies took over China, they got kicked out of Burma when the Commies took over Burma, and now they're in Thailand. A lot of them are in the employ of the opium lords. A lot of the northern Thai's - a lot of the Lisu, the Lahu and the Shan and Hmong people a lot... there's just a lot of people who are in desperate straights over there and the Church is responding in a very Christian way and they're saying why don't we help you learn how to do something other than growing opium. They don't understand anything about soil conservation.
In karma, in buddhism - the idea of karma destroys any hope for Grace. So one of the really shocking things that I saw over there was a woman that was starving to death at the feet of a gold statue and she had a baby in her arms that I think may have already been dead. And on this statue, on this idol - it was just ladened with bananas and fruits and all kinds of things to eat. Which the idol would never eat. But the people would look at that woman and say she sinned in her last life and that's why she is being punished in this life, we should not relieve her misery.
Foster Braun: Oh dear... she's working out her karma. She's going through the pains - sort of a repentence for that...
Rich: Right. Again, I think growing up, I kind of had romantic ideas of what Eastern Religion was like and you know like the eight fold path and all that stuff. A lot of it sounds very good. And I think a lot of it even makes a lot of sense. A lot of it even, you can see that it's a shadow of even what Christ was teaching. But when you see the actual workings of religious systems that are not the truth... we oppress people in the name of Christ because we pervert the Gospels. But when you see Buddhism as a system, is a very oppressive system.
Foster Braun: You said something, I want you to repeat that again. We oppress people in the name of Christ when we pervert the Gospel. What did you mean by that?
Rich: Well like the inquisition, I think is a good example. I think the Crusades was a good example. I think what has happened to the American Indians is a great example. In America, they wanted to get rid of the Indians and in order to justify the extermination policy that the United States Government came up with, they invented the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, which said it was ok for us to slaughter Indians, that it's ok for us to put bounties on Indian scalps. To pay people to kill Indian children and women, because God has ordained that we should...
Foster Braun: .. that it's our destinty to conquer this land and subdue it.
Rich: It's our destinty to conquer this land and destroy the heathen.
Foster Braun: It's almost like karma. The same kind of Buddhist thing that we have a destiny to do this thing.
Rich: Yeah, and people who would justify some of the American policies where the CIA or the United States government has supported a fascist dictator. They will justify that and say that our country is always right because we're a Christian country. Well, I have never read that in the Bible. So, there are oppressive systems that our government supports and there are people that say that it is ok for that to go on because we are Christian and I think if we were Christian, that wouldn't be going on.
Foster Braun: You look forward to becoming a missionary then someday?
Foster Braun: To putting your guitar down for a while and...
Rich: No, no, no I'll always play guitar, yeah..
Foster Braun: Oh yeah... taking your instrument with you, but you're ready to give your life for a period of time to that kind of work?
Rich: I think it would be great to be martyred. I mean I think it would be painful and I might chicken out. But, I think the world is looking for heroes, you know... I mean there is no one I would rather meet - and I have met a few people. I met a doctor - in fact, at Rock Lake Christian Assembly, the world's greatest church camp. Dr. Garland Baer who spent much of his life, after he had gone through Medical School, much of his life was spent in Burma and in Thailand working with hill people. Working with people who don't have a lot of help from anybody else. Instead of staying in America and making a lot of money or like so many foreign doctors who come to America - who leave people who are in desperate need. Americans need doctors like we need more holes in our heads. Hospital beds are full of hypocondriacs. What we need to do is heal people of hypocondria and the Medical profession will go down the drain. (Laughter) You know, people don't need to get sick. And I think I've been honestly sick a few times in my life, but I think that most...
Foster Braun: We have a lot of stress-related diseases that are the result of the way we live..
Foster Braun: As much as if you would some sort of terrible disaster that falls upon you - like a safe falling off a building on your head. A lot of the sickness that we have, I think you're right in the sense that it's self induced.. and to that extent a product of our hypocondria. But those are the real heroes - people that have touched your life and stirred it and you see a nobility in people like Dr. Garland Baer.
Rich: Yeah... who will give their lives. You know, like Jesus Christ and I mean, if I want to be like Jesus then I must be willing to give my life.
Foster Braun: I understand, in kind of your classically non-conformist ways, you moved out of Nashville..? Which has become kind of the Jerusalem of Christian music and have moved now to - what is it, Wichita, Kansas?
Rich: I have moved to Wichita yes.
Foster Braun: Why? Was that a deliberate move away from that center?
Rich: Yes, very deliberate. It was not necessarily a protest, but what I found in my own life was when I was surrounded by industry people, that it brought out the badness in me. It brought out my competitive nature, it brought out my selfishness, it brought out all of the things that I wish were not there! (Laughter) That I don't like in other people and I find completely unacceptable in myself. I had prayed for a long time that I would never fall into the traps that I saw myself falling into. And so, I think it would be better to throw away a career than to lose my soul - not that I believe I believe our salvation is dependent upon that...
Foster Braun: Let's talk about that.. do you think that Contemporary Christian music, which has become so rich in terms of the talent involved in it and the production factors and all, are we kind of in danger then of losing our soul?
Rich: I think you gain a soul by suffering, and you lose your soul in luxery. I think that everything I read that Christ taught us in the gospels indicates to me that the way that the spirit is nurtured is through accepting life head on without surrounding yourself with a lot of comforts and a lot of pillows and a lot of cushioning. I know that, there was a point last summer when I had this feeling of being completely financially broke and realizing - man, I actually had to pray that my gas tank would last me until the next concert because I didn't have a credit card on me, I didn't have anything, and I just went... this is the first time that I have really gone to Christ and said, 'help. I need Your help.' Because I had become a little bit self supporting.. self contained... I always had money in the bank, I always access to money - I was never rich, but very able to be self reliant and I think that sometimes that self reliance can really suffocate the spirit and really quench it. I think, we need to live on the edge.
Foster Braun: Is it true do you think that in some ways our success could be a real snare?
Rich: Historically, the only thing the church has not been able to withstand is its own prosperity.
Foster Braun: Yeah.. Chuck Swindol was talking the other day and saying that there are many people who can survive disaster. But very few people who can really survive..
Foster Braun: ... or cope with success.
["The Other Side of the World"]
Foster Braun: Rich Mullins singing.. what was the language that was being sung in?
Rich: Well, that was a mixture of Lisu and Northern Thai.
Foster Braun: Ok.
Rich: It is 'pray to God, pray to God. Things will be cool if you pray to God.'
Foster Braun: I love it! That's off your most recent album which is Winds of Heaven, Stuff of Earth, right?
Rich: Mmm hmm.
Foster Braun: And that's the one that's got a lot - it's chocked full of good stuff, like "Awesome God." Just a quick quesiton before - we have something special we want to do for you here, but I had heard that the phrase 'God wasn't joking when kicked 'em out of Eden' has caused you some problems with the record company?
Rich: Oh yeah - not my record company, my record company has been super supportive of me. But there was a company that they do most of their print stuff with objected to the line for some unknown reason. They thought that people would - I don't know what they thought. I don't think they thought.
Foster Braun:I agree with you! Somebody had mentioned that there had been a big ruckus about that line in the song and we all kind of looked at one another and said, 'why?'
Rich: Well you know whats neat? That's good to hear because you know, you look like an older person - not an elderly person, but not a young person and I think what the printers were worried about was they were saying, when you say 'when he rolls up his sleaves he ain't just puttin on the ritz,' will people - like middle aged people - cuz they wanted to do it for choir arrangements. And they said, would older people understand it? Would they appreciate it? And my thing is.. like I really object to the new hymnals that are being published where they change words. I think in fact its very nervy and irreverant for.. not that hymns are sacred, but like I remember in one of the hymns the line used to be 'Here I raise my ebenezer', and they have taken that out of the new hymnals because they say nobody knows what an ebenezer is and I think the responsibility of the church educators is to teach people what an ebenezer is.
Foster Braun: Oh yeah - I became a Christian ten years ago and didn't know any of this good stuff that you had grown up with. And when I found out what an ebenezer was, which is a rock of remembrance and where that had been in the Old Testament and how rock cairns have been set up so that when children came by and said, 'what does that mean?' That it would be precisely a moment where the father and the mothers could say here is what it means. Did you write that as a choral piece?
Rich: Yeah, as a matter of fact - I was on my way to a CIY conference in Denver, Colorado (Note: The song was actually written in July of 1987 while traveling between Tennessee and Missouri on the way to a CIY Conference in Joplin, MO.) - I mean I knew from the minute I heard the chorus for the first time... I mean it was kind of one of those things where the chorus just kind of popped out. Actually, I was thinking about the scripture where the Lord has bared his Holy arm in the sight of the nations and thinking what baring your arm meant. You know like when God tells Job, 'gird up your loins and act like a man.' Like I used to think that meant pull up your pants because I had no other frame of reference. I always thought wow that would be really.. I would never talk to God without having my pants up, I mean it's just not something that's gonna happen. Baring your arm means rolling up your sleave - getting ready to work. Like how your grandma used to pull her sleaves up before she would wash or something or do canning. And that's when I came up with the line, 'When He rolls up his sleaves he ain't just puttin on the ritz. Our God is an Awesome God, there is thunder...' You know, I just began to imagine that I was an old, black Baptist preacher and just tried to get the rhythm of... I love the way they talk in a rhythm.
Foster Braun: Rich, I gotta believe Rich Mullins believe that song is already incorporated into a lot of Church's worship services because it is such... all of us here, sing with it when it is on the air. We've had such a great time.. we've got something special though that is waiting for you right now in the hall. Would you please give us a little - we're going to sing something alright? Key of F I guess?
[Rich playing Electric Piano]
Rich: Thank you, thank you, thank you! Wow, this is great!
Foster Braun: We have a cake for you..
Rich: ...and there's a dog on the cake!
Foster Braun:Yes, now hang on... now somebody has to read this. Could somebody go over there and read it? Rich, you could read it for us - what does it say?
Rich: "Full of wind, Stuffed with Cake. Happy birthday Rich." Oh that's so complimentary. (Laughter) Thank you very much! And there are little clouds on there... or...
Foster Braun: There's little clouds on there and there's a doggy - what does the doggy stand for? Is there a significance to this?
Rich: There's a dog on my album jacket. As a matter of fact, that is my own personal dog.
Foster Braun: Is it? On the cake - well, you may not want to eat him then.
Rich: I can smell the cake from here. It smells great. If I had known that, when I was starving for breakfast I wouldn't have gone to McDonalds.
Foster Braun: Well we have something much healthier and tastier for you Rich Mullins. Thank you so much and happy birthday. Congratulations. In a couple of days, right?
Rich: Uh, yeah - a couple days - October 21st.
Foster Braun: We snuck it in here a little bit early for you.
Rich: ... and you can come to my party, if you want. I'm having a big party at my house.
Foster Braun: Thank you, and where's... in Wichita?
Rich: Well, actually no - this is my house in Tennessee. You just go down to Tennesse on 65, take the first exit - that's 52 west, take that to Orlinda and turn left onto 49 and it's about an hours drive on highway 49. A beautiful drive. When you go past the Dixon county line, I'm the second house on the right.
Foster Braun: I'll look for that when I'm down... some of you who know Tennessee know exactly what he's talking about.
Rich: Bellesburg, Tennesse. Way out there.
Foster Braun: We've got about two minutes left on the program. Tennessee seems to have become another kind of a Jerusalem to which people like Mike Card lives in a cabin...
Rich: Michael Card is a great guy.
Foster Braun: Isn't he a neat guy?
Rich: He lives near Franklin. That's where the rich people live. I live in Bellsburg, that's where...
Foster Braun: The hill folk live.
Rich: The hill folk.
Foster Braun: (Laughter) Rich, thank you so much for making this program possible. It's been a good time.
Rich: I had a wonderful time.