You Really Believe That?
Below is an excerpt from a book I’m working on about my struggle with doubt during the search for truth and a reasonable defense of the Christian faith. One single question changed the course of my life, and all for the better.
“What do you think happens when we die?” Karry asked.
It was 10 years since our first kiss on the seawall in Iwakuni, and we would celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary in June. This was one of our first serious conversations about death. When she asked this question one night in our one-bedroom condo, I was politely dismissive.
“I don’t know. Nothing? Blackness?”
I don’t remember what magazine I put aside to ponder her question. It may have been a copy of Scientific American. I liked the precision and discovery of science—the rationality of it all. It may have been a study guide for my upcoming carrier qualification. Something was different that night. Her approach combining concern and patience was by the Book.
“You really believe that?” she gently responded.
Her eyes longed for a husband who would take her Christian faith seriously. I sensed disappointment—even a bit of pity—as she shifted back onto her pillow. She was raised in a Christian family, but I didn’t grow up going to church. With those four words, she made me feel something unusual. It was a feeling she would never intentionally arouse but resulted from my unpreparedness to answer her simple question. I felt…stupid.
I could not tell her what I believed because I had never given it any serious consideration. I thought religion was the opiate of the masses and the cause of most world conflicts. Religion was for little old ladies with their hymnals and people too dumb to realize Darwin killed God, virgins don’t have babies, and dead people stay dead.
That night, I realized that I had no justification for my presuppositions other than “someone once said” or “that’s what I was taught in school.” Surely, our country’s public school system must afford equal time and instruction to all possible models for understanding the creation of the universe and the appearance of first life, right? If this God stuff is not even allowed to be taught in public school, doesn’t that mean it is heinously flawed and ridiculously naive? That is how I thought back then.
For some reason, instead of the obligatory thirty seconds normally given to these seemingly unanswerable questions, I pondered the fate of my soul. Up to that point, my views were passively atheistic and naturalistic, and the word “soul” would have meant some unknowable thing mostly religious people talk about. I thought of our first-born son, then 15-months-old, and his baby sister who was due in the summer. What would I teach them when they ask what happens after death? “Blackness” was an unsatisfying answer resulting from twenty-six years of spiritual apathy.
I came to a disconcerting realization: I was unprepared to give my children meaningful answers to life’s important questions. This was not my first suspicion of being a father somewhat unprepared. There was already a gnawing notion that although I was already a dad, I lacked something fathers should have. I could not nail it down but thought about it often. Maybe I haven’t read enough books. My intuition was eventually validated, but the problem was not the quantity of reading, it was the subject.
This book includes sections on making a Marine, Christian mores and cultural issues, and seeking peace, waging war, and defending the faith. The draft is done, but I’m looking for help to see it through to completion. If you would like to be involved in this writing project, contact me here. Would you like to see more? Let me know.
About Jason B. Ladd
Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.