As his fame grew, those in the industry tried to polish his appearance and speech (he was notorious for walking onstage barefoot and criticising the church for what he saw were hypocrisies) and conform his image to that of a proper Christian musician. But Mullins was a rebel, he viewed his faith as a reckless faith (more on that in the second part of this series), and so he gave away most of his money, stepped away from the Nashville music scene, and went to live on a Navajo reservation until passing away in a car accident at the age of 41.
What many don’t know is that Mullins struggled with alcohol and depression throughout his life, and he was often a jerk to his friends. When came time to make the film, the producers wanted to exclude these flaws. But Mullins’ brother, a consultant on the film, insisted the filmmakers include them. Rich strove for honesty, he argued, and to omit these details wouldn’t be honest.
I’m glad the filmmakers included these details of Mullins’ life. I can’t imagine how bad the movie would have been had they cleaned up Mullins’ flaws and made him into a spiritual superhero. It’s in our brokenness that we connect with others.
Recently, I heard a preacher talking about the deterioration of American values, how we need to get back to obeying the moral law, blah blah blah. (For the record, the next time you hear an old white guy in a suit preaching on American values, the good old days, liberals in Hollywood, or I never thought I’d see the day!, run the other way fast.) “If we break the moral law, we diminish God’s grace,” he said.
My skin crawled. I thought, “This guy’s preaching empty moralism. Looking good on the outside. But looking good on the outside leaves a person wasting away on the inside.”
The title “Ragamuffin” came from a book by an author, Brennan Manning. Manning says, “Every ragamuffin knows he’s only a beggar at God’s door. This is what it means to live by grace rather than performance.”