I love Rich Mullins. I really do. But he said some dumb things (perhaps at least partly under the influence of Brennan Manning, whom I’ve written about at some length in a surprisingly popular post here). Going through post drafts last night, I winced again as I dug up this particular quote of his:
Faith is not in ourselves. If our faith was in ourselves, we could never afford to fail. Who wants to go through life where you never fail? What a drag! Perfection is boring folks. People who are perfect are only perfect because they are nothing. Anyone who ever did anything messed up.
Aaaaaagh. He started off great but then took it in a totally confused direction. No Rich, perfection is NOT boring. If we followed your logic all the way out as the reductio that it is, we would have to conclude that Jesus was the most boring human being who ever walked the earth! And I’m quite sure you would disagree with that conclusion.
Now in fact, Mullins did move on to some much better things in that quote, which I’ll share in a minute, but I feel this is important to stress: Any time we give the impression that striving to walk in righteousness is “a drag” or that never sinning is boring, we need to rethink our wording. Very carefully. I’ve written about the aversion to “squeaky clean” before, and I think many of the points I made in that piece are applicable here. (In fact, that’s really a darn good piece if I say so myself—everybody go read it! Kidding, kinda.) I realize Mullins was trying to make a theological point about how we can’t depend on ourselves for our own salvation and about how wonderful it is that we can rest in God’s accomplishment for us on the cross. Very true, all well and good. But there is not a shred of biblical justification for making the leap from all that to “Perfection is boring.” That’s a shallow soundbite, and coming from a poet like Rich it’s doubly disappointing. Perfection is what God promises to us as the end goal to which all Christians are pressing! Perfection is the state of being completely unified with God so that we no longer can sin or want to sin. That doesn’t sound boring to me, that sounds like heaven! Quite literally!
At the same time, in fairness, I want to quote the rest of his speech because I do enjoy how he continued on. This passage really makes me think he simply didn’t consider his earlier words very carefully:
…We are told to believe in ourselves, and the end result of believing in yourself is that you end up putting a lot of pressure on yourself because you’ve got to be worthy of that faith. The wonderful moment of freedom is when you can finally say, ‘You know what? When I die, I’ll rot. When I die, they’ll put me in the ground because if they don’t I’ll stink up the place so bad that people will be repulsed by it, and it will be better to be buried than to stink. Ultimately that’s what I amount to.’ Thank God that there is a God who is beyond me. Thank God that there is a goodness beyond my goodness. Thank God that there is grace beyond what I am able to extend. Thank God that there is life beyond my life. I believe that I will be resurrected not because I myself will have power to pull myself out of the grave, but because there is a God who loves me and who will raise me up and give me a new body…and man, I’ve got a great one picked out.
To that, I can add a definitive “Amen.”