Mullin' Things Over
by Robyn Frazer
CCM Magazine April 1987
"A lot of this album has to do with celebrating, just saying, 'Man, I am really thankful to God that He's brought me to the place He's brought me." So says Rich Mullins about his new release, Pictures In The Sky, on which he offers a picture of himself and a sketch of what's on his mind.
Take "Screen Door", for instance. The songwriter says, "I just think it's a funny song. It has a heavy spiritual message, but I'd rather people enjoy it than sit around and ponder it. I'm really sick of all this heavy-handed Christianity. Musicians take themselves too seriously. They should have more fun, and they should stop preaching unless that's what God has called them to do. If I want to hear a sermon, I'll go to my church, thank you."
With tongue in cheek, Mullins readily offers his own estimation of his talent. "I'm not an overly humble person, but I'd like to have a different face. I'm sure there's something to be said for my voice - but I'm not sure what! I don't have much sex appeal and I'm not a lot of fun on stage, but I would not pretend to think I don't write good songs. That would be stupid."
This man with the wacky sense of humor certainly doesn't shy away from more serious matters. One dominant theme in his work is death. In fact, Rich's all-time favorite of his own songs, "Elijah", and his favorite from Pictures, "Be With You", address the subject.
"Well, that's the only thing I know I'm going to do in my life. I don't know if I'll be a success, a failure, married, single...but I do know that sooner or later, I'm going to die. The finality of that is kind of like God's little joke. No matter how cool you think you are, you will decompose."
"Most people live most of their lives out ignoring death. Anything that will remind us, we remove from sight. This obsession with immortality is a bizarre thing. What that tells me, though, is we must be immortal."
His music career, he figures, won't last half that long. "Youth ministry is my first love. I figure you can't be a Christian musician all your life. I mean, you have to grow up." Actually, he's not all that thrilled with the Christian music business as is and he has some definate ideas about mainstream music as well. First, the mainstream.
Mullins praises the likes of Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen, Bruce Cockburn, and Bob Dylan. But "an awful lot of the other music I hear today bores me to tears," he says. "I was thrilled when Bruce Hornsby came out. Man, this is music that people should listen to."
Now to his thoughts on Christian music. "Part of my frustration listening to Christian music is that I hear people yelling at me who don't even know me. And I think, 'what gives you the right? You have not validated your sermon to me by loving me.' I think I have a limited ministry potential in the Christian music business because the people who changed my life were not the people who sang to me. They were the people who loved me."