Singer Seeks Other Takes on Christianity

Jack W. Hill



Contemporary Christian singer Rich Mullins is practicing what he believes—he's doing more that just recording his music, touring, singing and talking about his faith in God. He recently moved to a Navajo Indian reservation in New Mexico to teach music to children.

"I went to Asia several years ago and enjoyed encountering Christianity from an Asian perspective," Mullins said. "That really challenged me and made me notice the cultural bias we have in parts of our faith.

"The Navajos tend to be more pluralistic than we are. We tend to believe that truth is scientifically verifiable, and they don't believe that"

Mullins, and Indiana native who graduated from a Quaker college, Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, with a double major in music and education, is on a 65-city tour in support of his latest album, "Brother's Keeper," which features photos and artwork from the Navajo. He is out with what he calls his Ragamuffin Band, a seven-man rock group. Mullins plays guitar, hammered dulcimer and piano in the group.

"Brother's Keeper" is the eighth album Mullins has released, beginning with a self-titled debut in 1986, following with "Pictures in the Sky" in 1987, "Winds of Heaven ... Stuff of Earth" in 1988, "Never Picture Perfect" in 1989, "The World as Best as I Re member It, Vol. 1" in 1991, Vol. 2 in 1992, and "A Liturgy, a Legacy and a Ragamuffin Band" in 1993.

He took inspiration for his band's name from a book, Brennan Manning's "The Ragamuffin Gospel," which Mullins noted is "not for the super-spiritual, but for ... those who shuffle along on feet of clay; for smart people who know they are stupid and honest disciples who admit they are scalawags."

In 1986 Mullins was the opening act on Amy Grant's "Unguarded" tour. Grant has recorded three of his songs—"Sing Your Praise to the Lord", "Doubly Good to You," and "Love of Another Kind." Debbie Boone has recorded his "O Come All Ye Faithful," Cynthia Clawson recorded his "If All I Know is Love" and Tony Melendez recorded Mullins' "Always Here with Me."

Like the message in one of his favorite movies, "Harold & Maude," Mullins loves to celebrate life and its beauties.

"Sometimes it's hard to believe that life is good," he said. "It's not always pleasant, but life is a great gift and your job as a human being is to go out there and live it the best you can. A lot of Christians I know are afraid to live; they're in the midst of huge restrictions on themselves.

"Christianity doesn't answer all my questions or make comfortable and happy. What it does do is give me a context for living."

Opening acts Ashley Cleveland and Carolyn Arends are label mates of Mullins on Reunion Records, a contemporary Christian label based in Nashville, Tennessee.