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Ragamuffin:The True Story of Rich Mullins

Release Date:
Thursday, January 9, 2014

MPAA Rating:

Michael Koch, David Leo Schultz, Wolfgang Bodison, James Kyson, Mel Fair

Written By:
Ashleigh Phillips

David Leo Schultz

‘Ragamuffin’ is the true story of Rich Mullins, a prodigy musician who rose to Christian music fame and fortune only to walk away and live on a Navajo reservation.

Ragamuffin:The True Story of Rich Mullins | Review

Wrestling in The Father's World
Jacob Sahms

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Just to be fair: I had only a faint connection between Rich Mullins and Brennan Manning in my head, and a few of his songs ("Awesome God") as echoes in my head, before I saw the film. But watching the film, a radio "interview" of Mullins (Michael Koch) that translates into a series of flashbacks to various periods in his past, depicts a man who lived through the CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) scene in the 1970s and 1980s. That's to oversimplify it though: this is the story of a man growing up in an evangelical environment who struggles with his own desires for love and the shadow of his father's dissatisfaction.

Too many young men grow up longing to be known by their fathers. It's not a new story. But not every man in that situation grows up to become one of the most transformative Christian musicians and songwriters of the twenty-first century. Mullins, as depicted here, finds love at Bible college but also a sense of dissatisfaction with the way that the world works. Nashville wants him, but he doesn't want Nashville; he wants his father's approval but his father doesn't approve; the woman he loves wants him to stay grounded but he knows his gifts call him elsewhere. He's a lonely wanderer without a home.

I thought of Hebrews 11:9: "By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God's call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going." Mullins was that wanderer, seeking to find God and himself, and he might've achieved the greatest peace on a Native American reservation, but even that wouldn't last forever. He was constantly chasing the answer to the question that hangs over the introduction of the film, the one Brennan Manning says that God will ask us at judgment, "Did you believe that I loved you?"

It seems a fair question for the film, given that Mullins is portrayed as searching out Christianity through his encounters with others, determining that even if his father didn't love him (or didn't show him love) God loved him anyway. I walked away believing that Mullins got that God loved him (the scene where he goes all Karl Barth via "Jesus Loves Me" is sweet), and thinking that church folks should consider what it means to fit in, to box God in, to end up condemned by J.B. Phillips' Your God Is Too Small.

Christianity shouldn't be put in a box. Rich Mullins couldn't be. And this film will inspire you to remember that you are loved and your God can't be put in a box either.

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