Wednesday, February 20, 2008

GENERAL BUTT NAKED, and PURE GRACE


General Bhalyi, fully clothed

What do you do? You've killed 20,000, many of them children. You used to go into battle in the sad, endless Liberian Wars totally naked, feeding the hearts of slaughtered children to your troops beforehand. You were, and confess to it, totally given over to Satan.

You are now, and confess to it, a born-again Christian. This appears to have happened ex nihilo, a voice from God during a battle. I'm inclined to doubt it. The Holy Spirit forms faith through hearing the Word. "How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?" Sometime, someone--an old woman perhaps, or the mother of one of the innocent ones you slaughtered--whispered some Word of hope or warning to you. Or something of the Word spoken to you as a child sprang to life at the oddest of times to reclaim your sorry, hapless, forsaken ass.

The former general has returned out of exile to face a truth and reconciliation committee.
"I could be electrocuted. I could be hanged. I could be given any other punishment," the 37-year-old Blahyi said in a weekend interview following his truth commission appearance last week. "But I think forgiveness and reconciliation is the right way to go."

Since the time of St. Paul, Christians have been wary of these dramatic conversion stories. A lot of time has to pass, and the critter must be studied closely. What kind of fruit to expect? How long before we can be sure? Paul spent fourteen years back home in Tarsus before finally being fetched by Barnabas. Blahyi should rightly expect a lonely life.

Nevertheless, it is a great story. One can only stand and marvel at the grace,--the pure grace--that can accomplish so much with such wretched humanity.

Some years ago, after my mother died, my father took into his home a homeless man he'd met at a weekly Bible study. The man was ex-con; had been an extremely violent man prior to his incarceration, and had many fascinating stories to tell. What was striking about him was how he carried in so many ways the scars of his prior life. He was a powerfully built man, with a face that was just plain scary. He was a professional torturer in his other life, and spent many years in solitary confinement in prison. At the time of his capture, the state police of the state he was fleeing had standing orders to shoot on sight.

The man had been living in an empty warehouse prior to moving in with my Dad. The marriage was not one made in heaven--the two men weren't the most gracious people and just tolerated each other. There was a bit of concern that the man would revert, you know. I can remember sitting for two hours alone with him, listening to his story. He spent the entire time standing, towering over me; he never sat down. He hadn't ever been taught very much about living with other people.

This man loved to tell and retell the story of his redemption, as apparently does the former General Butt Naked, now reborn as Joshua.

Said Blahyi:
"I have been looking for an opportunity to tell the true story about my life -- and every time I tell people my story, I feel relieved."


Joshua Blahyi today

1 comment:

elephantschild said...

I'm inclined to believe him.

In West Africa it would be extremely easy for him to escape detection. He could've lived out the rest of his life in Ghana without anyone coming after him.

But he has come forward.

Liberia has to start somewhere. The culture is so completely different than here; we can't really say that it's analogous to Death Row inmates who "find God." Bhalyi is not denying that he fully deserves execution for his crimes.

Meanwhile, Charles Taylor hides in the Hague, a guest of the UN, complaining about the food and whining that he's cold. Taylor has more blood on his hands that General Butt Naked.