Jul. 10, 2016

What's Janice Joplin got to do with it?

I operate under a distinct disadvantage compared to many of you. I was brought up in a denomination that, however well-meaning it intended to be, taught me that it was my responsibility to set the world straight; teaching that I was somehow responsible for making certain that people were saved. I am not bitter enough to pretend that the teachings were sacrilegious and did not deem Jesus as the True Messiah. But, I must admit that the denomination had a tendency to teach us more about talking and less about listening.

So, what did I do? I changed denominations. I took a walk on the wild side discovering that Jesus saves; I merely reflect His salvation.

How am I going to pull together the above video with the statement that follows it? What do I say now? I respond, “Janis Joplin.” What does Janis Joplin have to do with it? Bear with me, please.

Janice Joplin was a girl from a small Texas town. She sang in the church choir. She attended church camp. She was kicked out of both. Most of us familiar with Janis and her music know the ending to her story was far from happy. Janis numbed herself enough through drugs and alcohol that Janis eventually died in her addiction.

The Fray’s song, “How to Save a Life,” is reminiscent of how the church leaders must have felt when trying to “manage” Janis. My suspicion is Janice was most likely ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) before we ever knew there was such a thing. My suspicion is Janice was a highly intelligent, emotionally challenged young girl that could not be tamed. So what did the church world do with her? Tossed her out.

“How to Save a Life,” was written by the Fray’s lead singer, Isaac Slade. It was written to describe the frustration professionals and mentors feel when working with very troubled teenagers. Slade admits one barrier to reaching a particular young man was the religious answer of “change or we won’t let you in” (paraphrasing; not an exact quote).

Janice was treated similarly. Janice was bullied in her Port Arthur high school. She was different. She was a creative soul trying to fit into a conservative community. The boys in her high school voted her “Ugliest Man on Earth.” They found the joke to be funny. Friends still share that Janice was devastated and never really got over the embarrassment of the prank.

What does God have to teach us through The Fray’s song and Janice’s life? How can we help save a life? There is only one Great Physician. It isn’t our role to condemn or convict. We are called to be His light, a candle on a hill, the salt of the earth, and God’s messengers of love.

In all honestly, it wasn’t the church’s fault for teaching me that I held the sole responsibility for people’s souls. It wasn’t the leaders’ faults that they really did not know what to do with Janice. It isn’t Isaac Slade’s fault that he couldn’t reach the young teen boy who was cutting himself (self-mutilation) and taking drugs. I’m sure the Christians involved in all three real-life accounts really felt their tough love was necessary for a major breakthrough.

They were wrong.

Where’s the redemption? Learn from past mistakes. Find a way to put God’s grace into action. The world hears enough about what Christians don’t like. Why don’t we try telling them God loves them? He loves them…just the way they are.

Be willing to speak truth to confused Christians and be willing to speak Truth to searching souls. What’s Janice Joplin got to do with it? Jesus died for Janice and all troubled kids that followed.