“The Scriptures don’t teach us to be assertive. The Scriptures teach us—and this is remarkable—the Scriptures teach us to be submissive. This is not a popular idea.” — Rich Mullins
Sometimes it seems the best of us get the shortest lives. When Rich Mullins was thrown from his Jeep on September 19th, 1997, the world lost one of its greatest Christian poets. Rich was the first to tell you he wasn’t perfect, but he was real. Disillusioned by the music business, he left it all to live with the Navajo in Tse Bonito, New Mexico, doing what he loved most, teaching music. Now 14 years after his death, the Kid Brothers of St. Frank, continue his work with a traveling music school that reaches remote parts of the reservations. Rich’s last album before moving to the reservation was A Liturgy, A Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band. Track 6 is “Peace (A communion blessing from Saint Joseph’s Square)”.
I real-bad wanted to play the piano intro to this song the first time I heard it. It sounded simple enough, until I got the music notation and realized it was way out of my league (though that doesn’t take much). The opening drifts into a subdued, catchy melody that repeats throughout the song’s verses and into the outro. Languid verses are broken up by a thundering chorus, punching drumbeats out in stark contrast, while Rich proclaims loud the blessing, like we’re hard of hearing (’cause we are).
This is part 2 of 3 in a series commemorating not the attacks of September 11th, but the heroism and unity in the face of them. In a song called “Peace”, the first idea I get is some anthem of the ’60s, loudly decrying the last war on communism. This is not that. It’s a quiet Communion message, offering an olive branch to “you”, not “your mask”. Doctrine is important to the Christian faith, but here he doesn’t dwell on it (See another song on the album called “Creed” for plenty of that). Rich proclaims the communion feast open for anyone who can “lay down [their] fears” and “trust this to be true”, such a simple description of faith.
War, violence, evil, these are the thorniest manifestations of the curse this world is under. God commands us to love, but also to protect the innocent, and sometimes events like 9/11 jam us right in the middle of the two, trying to carry out both. The best of what we saw in the days after were Americans living out the blessing of this song, putting nothing but peace between us for a little while, while we all dealt with the shock and realized we were on the same side. Here’s hoping it won’t take another awful event to get us back there again.