One of the Few, Jason B. Ladd. Wasilla, AK: Boone Shepherd, 2015.
Summary: A Marine’s story of coming to faith, his “reconnaissance of the Christian worldview”, and challenging words as one trained in warfare about the nature of the spiritual warfare in which we find ourselves.
Jason B. Ladd has served as a Marine fighter pilot and instructor and is an Iraq war veteran. In this book, he combines an account of his training for, and experiences in that role, and an account of his coming to Christian faith. He also argues for that faith by articulating how the “Christian worldview” most deeply addresses the challenges we face, from the ultimate of what happens at death to how then we should live. He speaks to the challenges to living a life set apart as “one of the few” in the midst of the pervasiveness of the naturalist worldview, and the permissive ethics around sexuality and alcohol that are often a part of military experience and much of contemporary life.
The book is written in three parts. The first focuses on his training as a Marine and some of the spiritual parallels to that training he found. He talks about meeting and falling in love with Karry, a Christian, who he eventually marries. Part two is more teaching oriented, beginning with a chapter on the nature of God, dealing with issues like the taking of life that is implicit in war-making, answers to skeptics about many issues of faith, and a strong challenges on the folly of drunkenness, pornography and sex outside of marriage. Part three centers on spiritual warfare, and lessons that might be drawn from military experience and concludes with moving chapters titled “Love on the Nishiki” and “The Best Day.”
There were several things I appreciated about this book. One was that the author writes a riveting account of his training as a Marine and a fighter pilot that gives one an appreciation for the rigor as well as the life-endangering risks many of our military face, not only on the battlefield but even in training. The second thing I valued was his “no-nonsense” discussions of things like drunkenness and the foolishness of the “drink responsibly” mantra (why don’t we just tell people that it is not OK to get drunk?) And finally, his discussions of the reality of spiritual warfare, and the vigilant discipline this involves concerning our minds and our passions, are valuable reminders.
Most compelling was conversation he had with his wife Karry one night that left him with a critical question for which he didn’t have a good answer. She asked, “What do you think happens when we die?” to which he responded, “I don’t know. Nothing? Blackness?” He admits,
“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. I figured religion was for little old ladies with hymnals and people to dumb to realize Darwin killed God. Virgins don’t have babies, and dead people stay dead.”
He goes on to acknowledge, “I came to a disconcerting realization: I was unprepared to give my children meaningful answers to life’s important questions.” This led to a concerted investigation of these questions that finally concluded with his baptism.
This leads me to my one criticism of this self-published work. I think he tries to do too much, particularly in the sections where he moves from personal narrative to teaching on Christian worldview and spiritual warfare. The strength of this work is personal narrative, both of his training and life as a Marine, and his journey to faith. I would have liked to seen him address the issues of apologetics and lifestyle much more in terms of his own journey to faith, which seemed disjointed and, sometimes a bit abstract, as he discourses on a number of theological issues. Perhaps in military terms, I felt that he was scattering rather than concentrating his fire. This was especially the case in the chapters on his training, where he feels compelled to draw a spiritual “life lesson” in each subsection rather than a single key point. Focusing on personal narrative, both in telling the story of his training and in describing his journey to faith, particularly in how the answers he found persuaded him to change his mind and changed his life, would have been more compelling. The parts of the book where he does this had the most energy and were the most effective.
My hunch is that Ladd is a riveting public speaker, and the book is a great adjunct to his public addresses. I think it would appeal to military audiences and to those who value service to country. His own narrative of beginning to question the unchallenged assumptions of a naturalistic worldview and his clear recognition that the choice of worldview is a life and death matter is a breath of fresh air in the miasma that says “whatever.”
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.