Joshua M. Blahi is the man who was known as General Butt Naked during the Liberian Civil War which drew to a close in 1996. He always went into battle naked except for boots and weapons, hence his war name. I still find his story both troubling and perhaps redemptive.
Blahi’s crimes were heinous and revolting, including ritual sacrifice of young children and drinking of their blood and eating their hearts. Yet he claims to have been called by God while he was still in the midst of a battle. He says he immediately dropped his weapons and left the war entirely. After many weeks of fasting, prayer and counseling with a pastor he saw Jesus in vision and was told to repent and never return to his old ways. He says he knows he has been fully redeemed through faith in The Lord Jesus Christ. For awhile he lived in hiding in Ghana, but now preaches the Gospel in a church in Liberia. He was the only man involved in the Liberian Civil War who returned to the country and requested that he stand trial for his crimes, but there were no genocide laws at the time which he could be charged under.
After reading his story I felt compelled to write a poem about him, a poem that could just BE, with no judgment made. It was at first a very daunting and frustrating experience. My pitiful attempts at trying to describe what hand-to-hand combat might be like were stymied when the most beastly word I could think of was “snot.” I didn’t want to use profanity and yet I wanted to convey the idea of violence contrasted with the call to repentance and where the call might lead. It turned out to be both a physically and emotionally difficult task.
Blahi’s story is very controversial and he has many detractors who still feel he is “the most evil man in the world.” I do not know what crimes can be forgiven by God, but He is the only one who knows the hearts of men. Has He atoned for the General’s sins? I chose to write my poem as though I do believe, and yet questions remain. So here is my offering, I hope it causes thought on the possibilities of redemption for each human being.
Naked, plunging again into slaughter, aching
to inflict pain –
Furiously pounding pulse revels in screams
As legs push powerfully forward,
gasping effort of lungs, muscles and sinews
now wading – blindly – through sobbing moans, the
leaving life of others,
arms straining, stabbing, slashing;
– always forward through smoke and noise –
Drunken on blood, consumed hearts of
children form rivulets, greencongealing from mouth
Insensate, lust of killing remains.
But now, suddenly – silence –
– – – choice – – –
between the familiar comforts of hell or
the rigors of Damascus –
Strange scene when God speaks, and
old ways cease.
Feet stop, filthy body slumps, sweating and spent –
and back turns.
Who will believe this stranger in the land?