It was on this date in 1997 that Rich Mullins lost his life in an auto accident on a lonely stretch of road in central Illinois. Earlier this morning I watched one of his videos and for some odd reason just started tearing up. I mean, it's been twenty years! I didn't even know the guy! I'm not sure why he had - and still has - such a profound impact on my life. He most likely would have irritated me if we'd known one another - from what I've heard. I'm sure I would have irritated him too. And, again, I can't even pretend to know him. But from his writing and speaking and singing... it seems we had similarities of thought and heart.
I was wondering this morning what he might be like if he were still alive today. What would he think of the president, and politics in general? The state of the church today? Or would he even care? It's hard to say, and in a way it seems more natural that he isn't here anymore...
There are so many things to link to in this post, but for some reason I feel like sharing this story from James Bryan Smith's book An Arrow Pointing to Heaven. It's a book about Rich, and one I need to read again.
I remember one time Beaker and I were hiking on the Appalachian Trail, and he met some friends of his, so I walked into town. It was about a five-mile walk from the campsite down the trail... down into town. And when I got there I went into a restaurant and I was having a steak, and this guy started talking to me and we had this great conversation. We were having a good time, and he said, "Hey look, it's dark and it's five miles up the road to your campground. Why don't I drive you up there?"
And I said, "Hey, great!"
And so we got in his car, and just as we pulled out from under the last light in that town, the guy said, "You know what, I should probably tell you that I'm gay."
And I say, "Oh! I should probably tell you that I am a Christian."
And he said, "Well, if you want out of the car..."
I said, "Why?"
And he said, "Well, I'm gay and you're a Christian."
I said, "It's still five miles and it's still dark."
Then he said, "I thought Christians hated gays."
I said, "That's funny, I thought Christians were supposed to love. I thought that was our first command."
He said, "Well, I thought God hated gays."
And I said, "That's really funny, because I thought God was love."
And then he asked me the big one. He said, "Do you think I will go to hell for being gay?"
Well, I'm a good Hoosier, and I puckered up to say, "Yes, of course you'll go to hell for being gay." I got ready to say that, but when I opened up my mouth it came out, "No, of course you won't go to hell for being gay." And I thought to myself, Oh my God, I've only been in New Hampshire for one week and I've already turned into a liberal! What am I going to tell this guy now?
Then I said to him, "No, you won't go to hell for being gay, any more than I would go to hell for being a liar. Nobody goes to hell for what they do. We go to hell because we reject the grace that God so longs to give us, regardless of what we do."