Jason B. Ladd

Author | Apologist | Entrepreneur

James, Jared, and Jihad: Tragedy in the Search for Meaning, Pleasure, and Paradise

paris attack tragedy meaning pleasure paradise

The opening of a mass murderer’s diary, the sentence of a fitness icon, and the death of a terrorist mastermind—no, hostage-mind—all challenge the notion that people are good. They challenge the notion of goodness itself.


The notebook of James Holmes, the mass murderer in the Aurora, Colorado theatre shooting was released. Upon the graph-ruled pages are stick-figure sketches and thoughts scribbled in cursive.

He writes of a fight between the biological and “the real.” He writes of the soul and his unwillingness to “eviscerate” it in order to fix his “broken mind.” He admits a knowledge of right and wrong, describes how he couldn’t think of his victims as real, and reveals a lifelong hatred of mankind.

He was asking philosophical questions including eight pages of a single-word question: “Why?” And in the end, he concluded that life is arbitrary and should not exist.

He believed his mind was broken and lamented its inability to fix itself. The questions he was asking—the important questions asked for centuries and studied in the universities—went unanswered, and his search for meaning sent him into a self-described “mind madness.”

This killer’s quest for meaning led to purposeless violence.


Famous Jared Fogle—former-Subway spokesman, pop icon, and physical transformation idol—is now infamous. His spiritual devolution is his new legacy, and that his exploitation of children and obsession with pornography was enabled by the head of his own children’s charity only magnifies the anguish of a heart outraged.

This molester’s pursuit of pleasure lured him into pain.


And then there is the hostage-mind who planned the attack on Paris. The word “mastermind” awards too much credit. His mind was no master, but an apprentice who failed to learn the basics of human dignity and worth. His mind more closely resembled a hostage, an organ hijacked by a deadly combination of ideology and brutality. To treat innocents with such wanton violence requires a devaluation of life, a condition easily reached with a worldview based on unquestioning submission.

In this fanatic’s pursuit of paradise in Heaven, he created hell on earth.

Where is the Good?

Where is the good in all of this?

It is in Pierce O’farrell who was shot three times in that Colorado theatre and then extended forgiveness at the first opportunity.

It is in those who helped expose the exploitation of children and pursue justice for the victims.

And it’s in Antoine Leiris’ refusal to hate the terrorists who murdered his wife.

An unknown, a former hero, and a villain.

And all of them broken

And while we may never allow our bodies to act as they did when our own minds descend into madness, we are fools to think we are not somewhat broken too.

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 3:23:

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

When you recognize your own brokenness, you will begin asking new questions about meaning, pleasure, and paradise. And you will not be satisfied until you have sufficient answers.

The Answer

There are answers, and they are sufficient.

But they’re not found in the carnage of a desperate rampage. They can’t be found in the fleeting heartbeats of illegitimate pleasures. And the answers are annihilated along with the questioner bent on suicide.

The answers are found in a person.

Indeed, we are all broken, and if we have anything in common with a mass murder, might it be that we, too, should lament our inability to fix ourselves.

For that, we need a Savior.

And although we struggle with Paul’s words in verse 23, we find comfort in verse 24:

“. . . and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

What would happen if we all heeded the wisdom of Micah and joined him in his pursuits to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before our God?

Photo Credit: Alberto Otero García / CC-BY

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.

2 Replies

  1. Steve Morgan

    Well said Jason. I liked the answers being found in a person. When they are not, there seems to be a tragic turning upside down of all things good, right and just.

    1. Maybe that’s why the blood is pooling in our heads…