Last Friday, the Bradenton branch YMCA allowed us to host a showing of the movie Ragamuffin, the story of the late Christian musician Rich Mullins. Normally “Christian” movies are synonymous with “cheesiness” and bad acting. While the Ragamuffin actors may not ever see an Academy Award, I thought they did a fantastic job. Whereas with movies like Fireproof, you just have to give them a pass because its a “Christian” movie, I didn’t feel that at all with Ragamuffin. I could gladly show this movie to a non-Christian friend or neighbor and not be embarrassed.
While the acting was way beyond what I anticipated, the story-line gripped me and the honesty sucked me in. It was real. Rich was a real dude. He yelled at people, he was lonely, he was possessive, he cussed, and he drank. A lot. The guy who wrote, “Sing praise to the Lord” and “Awesome God” had a drinking problem. He was a flawed human being, with feelings of emptiness, guilt, worthlessness despite a successful career in the music industry. As a fellow deeply flawed human being I resonated.
One takeaway from the film was the importance of a father’s love. Rich never felt loved by his dad. No matter how much he sought it, it just never came. And it stayed with him his entire life. His mother loved him, but his father’s love was as necessary as it was elusive. Dad’s matter. The words “I love you,” from a father are powerful and emancipating.
Still, we are reminded in this film, that we are not forever stuck in a bad-dad quagmire. An earthly dad’s love is not ultimate. While an earthly dad’s love is powerful, the gospel speaks hope of an even better Father. The journey is tough and slow, but the Christian can hear “I love you,” from the Ultimate Father. And that itself has the power to change.
Rich struggled his whole life. And so do we. The gospel is the power to save (Rom 1:16) us and change us, but it is first of all an announcement or proclamation that Jesus has already dealt with the problem of sin. We never stop struggling in this life. It might not be as visible as alcohol or drugs, though it just may be. The gospel is good news to all kinds of strugglers.
I think this film will make you cry. I cry way more now that I have three kids. I think with each one, I became more prone to this expression of emotion. I cried long before Rich died. And then when he did, I continued to cry, thankful for the dark room.
The most surreal experience was Rich’s brother Dave Mullins (who introduced the film and actually interviews the actor playing Rich in the film), standing next to me singing Rich’s song. I’m just a guy who knew little about Rich, yet was having trouble holding it together. And his brother who knew and loved Rich, was filled with joy, singing Rich’s song right next to me. Wow. Dave believed the gospel, and his singing called me to believe as well. Rich though he died, yet shall he live.
If you can’t find a showing on the tour, then you can purchase it in early May. I’m certain I will.