Last Thursday I had the opportunity to see Ragamuffin, a movie about “the true story of Rich Mullins”. Wow. I did not know much about Rich’s story going into this movie (I’m not a fan of that genre of music). So I was surprised—in a good way—by how deep the film was. It’s incredibly deep… I felt on the edge of crying through most of the movie…
Before I go any further however, I want to address fame. Readers of my blog may not be aware that I do some audio production. Through this I’ve toured with “Christian” bands, I’ve been on the field for an NFL game, and I was on stage for every act which performed in the Super Bowl Village here in Indianapolis a couple of years ago. I mention these only to share that I have a certain insight into fame. Let me tell you, fame is an illusion. Yes, it’s true that certain people are famous in that many people know who they are. These people may be talented athletes or gifted in the arts. But the illusion is that they are somehow better and more important than the rest of us.
Companies spend a lot of money trying to convince you that these people are important because it sells books, movies, tickets, etc. and makes these companies a lot of money. (This aspect of the Christian music industry is depicted to an extent in Ragamuffin.) But the truth—a truth which is often hidden from us—is that these people are just as human as we are. In a twist of irony, I’m convinced that many famous musicians wouldn’t be popular if they were back in high school (for example). Some famous people are very high quality individuals. However many others aren’t the type which the average middle class suburbanite—the people who are buying their products—would be good friends with if they knew them in real life. Again, irony.
Many people may be under an illusion as to what their favorite musicians and other figures are really like. This is especially true in the Christian realm. Some people think differently than I do and want to imagine that all Christian people who do some sort of ministry are more or less “perfect” Christians. Sure they sin, but it isn’t any worse than, say, uttering a cross word when they’re tired. But that isn’t true of all, perhaps even most. We may not all sin in the same way, but many of us wrestle with questions, frustrations, hurt, God, etc.
I say all of this because if you are expecting a safe, heart-warming retrospective of a clean-cut Christian musician, you’re going to be shocked if not even offended. As I understand it, some people have gotten angry over this film already. Make no mistake, this isn’t a Hallmark movie of the week. This is real life. And that’s why I loved it. It’s painfully real, honest, and relatable for these reasons. But lest you think that the producers were off the mark, it’s my understanding that all of Rich’s siblings and best friends supported and actually played parts in the film.
The movie depicts how Rich struggled to believe that God loved him—that anyone loved him. And he struggled to try to escape Christian hypocrisy and figure out how to really follow God himself. (A hypocrite was an actor; in context this means one who plays the religious part but whose religious actions don’t reflect their true heart.) And Rich always tried to encourage others to truly follow God as well. Ironically, like Keith Green, this some times offended the religious establishment.
While Ragamuffin is on one hand a movie about Rich Mullins, on the other hand it’s a movie about all of us (I least I identified with it). It’s our story, our struggle to believe—to be convinced of God’s love for us personally. The producers have shared that they knew Rich wouldn’t have wanted a movie to be made about his life. But they also knew that Rich inspired many during his life and they wanted to share this inspiration again, how Rich pointed others closer to God.
I think Rich’s deep desire to follow God authentically also led to great frustration as to how far short he fell. But I think this is better than being apathetic. And it’s the same for us. If we truly, honestly pursue the ways of Christ, we’ll likely be frustrated that we aren’t closer to the Father. These seem to go hand in hand. But again, it’s much better than to not desire fellowship with Christ.
The movie doesn’t follow the standard evangelical script of challenges followed by God coming through for a happy ending. I mean, at the end of the movie (this shouldn’t be anymore of a spoiler than the Titanic sinking), the lead character dies. But if one can take any encouragement from the movie, I think it would be to persevere and know you are not alone in your struggles. And understand—become convinced—that the Father truly, deeply, personally loves you.