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Jay Leno’s transition and a surprising faith fact

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Late night talk show hosts Jay Leno (L) and Jimmy Fallon pose backstage at the 70th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California, January 13, 2013 (Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)

Jay Leno has been the star of “The Tonight Show” for 22 years.  The comedian was famously forced off the show in January 2010 and hastily re-hired two months later after his replacement bombed in the role.  This time, the transition has been much more positive.  After leaving the show last Thursday, Jay immediately went back on the road as a traveling comedian.  As he told the LA Times, “I’ve always been a stand-up comedian that had a day job.”

Transitions can be tough.  After Satya Nadella was promoted to succeed Steve Ballmer as CEO of Microsoft last week, critics are already claiming that the company should have brought in an outsider to shake things up.  J. C. Penney recently ousted CEO Ron Johnson 17 months after hiring him, returning his predecessor to the job.

A boy sits alone on a dock that stretches into a fog shrouded lake (Credit: buaiansayapanomali via DeviantArt)
Why are young people leaving religion
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Corporate transitions, while important, are temporal.  Faith transitions are eternal.  Here the numbers are frightening: 7 in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30 who went to church regularly in high school have quit attending by age 23.  The Barna Group says that 6 in 10 young people leave church permanently or for an extended period starting at age 15.  Young adults complain about the church’s intolerance and irrelevance.  But there’s another factor at work as well.

Dr. Vern Bengtson is a pastor’s son and social work professor at the University of Southern California.  After studying 350 families for 40 years across four generations, he learned much about the transmission of faith from parents to children.  His major conclusion: to continue in the faith, children must be bonded emotionally with their parents, especially their father.  “Fervent faith cannot compensate for a distant dad,” he discovered.

If we want our children to love Jesus, we must do more than pass on religious rules and responsibilities.  After studying parents whose children followed them in the faith, Dr. Bengtson concluded that we need “the kind of passion these parents had for wanting their children to achieve the peace and the joy and the hope and the inspiration they had found for themselves.”

Be passionate about your Father and your children, and they will want the faith they see in you.  New York Times columnist David Brooks recently quoted Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement… get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted.  Everything is phenomenal…. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”

Tragically, Heschel notes that for many of us, “faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion.”

The psalmist could sing to God: “All my springs are in you” (Psalm 87:7).  Is your faith an heirloom or a living fountain today?