Let me start off by saying I am not a Rich Mullins expert. My younger brother Mark is though. I received the movie RAGAMUFFIN from my son Joshua recently for my 42nd birthday. I watched it last night.
What is clear from the onset is that Rich did not have a good relationship with his earthly father. His dad, who was a farmer, tended to be rough, tough, verbally abusive to Rich, and didn’t know how to express any love towards him. This would haunt Rich for most of his life really. And I suspect many will be able to relate to this element of Rich’s story.
Rich decided to leave home and attended a Bible College. His real passion was writing songs. One of his friends sent his song ‘Sing Your Praise to the Lord’ to Nashville and Amy Grant who was on the rise in Contemporary Christian Music wanted to record it, and eventually did on her AGE TO AGE album in the early 80’s. Rich was not overly interested in going to Nashville and becoming a Christian pop star, especially if it meant leaving his love interest Jess behind. He was deeply affected when their romance did not last/work out. He was distraught.
Rich ended up in Nashville. He stood out like a black sheep in the CCM industry though. He wasn’t interested in writing cheesy pop songs that just threw the name Jesus into the songs as many times as possible to be popular. This frustrated his producers and this is well documented in the film. Rich wanted to minister the love of God to people more than anything. He didn’t care about success or money as is made clear in the film. In fact towards the end of the film and his life he was teaching music to children on a reservation or something like that. He didn’t care about his songs charting or not. AWESOME GOD would become a massive hit for him though. It’s a great congregational song.
What I like most about this movie is that it doesn’t gloss over Rich’s struggles, weaknesses, and vices, and unlike in most Christian films (ie Fireproof/Courageous) he doesn’t conquer them all by films end. While he was writing songs about God and spirituality, he was given to smoking, drinking, anger, and what comes across in the film as brattiness frankly. I know that may not be a word.
Rich struck up a life-changing relationship with Brennan Manning, a recovering alcoholic who was an author and speaker. He wrote the ever-popular THE RAGAMUFFIN GOSPEL, which I must read one day. Manning, a recovering alcoholic, helped Rich thru a series of exercises and through pure friendship, see God as a loving Abba Father whose love was unconditional. When Rich talked about God’s extravagant love at his shows some religious people didn’t like it. They thought he emphasized grace and love too much. I have experienced this in my own life to an extent.
Rich died in a car accident as he was working on what he viewed to be his most important work, THE JESUS RECORD. He left a void in Contemporary Christian Music that has never been filled to this day. Michael Koch does a good job playing Rich in the film. The acting is good in this film. And Koch does a decent job singing Rich’s songs. You will learn the origins of some of Rich’s songs by watching this movie. The dvd includes a message from Rich’s brother Dave Mullins.
I’m rating RAGAMUFFIN 5 out of 5 stars for its honesty and rawness. And its message that God loves us no matter what. God can use broken vessels for His glory.