A retired United Methodist pastor who spent much of his life fighting against racial injustice, homophobia and the death penalty, has committed suicide in what was intended as a final protest and an act to inspire change.
Rev. Charles Moore, 79, doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire in the parking lot of a strip mall in his hometown of Grand Saline, Texas, on June 23, reports the Dallas News.
According to accounts, Moore screamed and tried to stand as he was engulfed in flames, while witnesses tried to put out the fire with shirts, bottles of water and a fire extinguisher. Moore was airlifted unconscious to a Dallas hospital, but died from his burn injuries.
Moore chose Grand Saline for the negative memories it held of racism and prejudice, and for a lynching that he witnessed as a boy.
He had intended his act to be a grand but selfless gesture in the manner of Buddhist monks who have done the same before him.
Moore left behind number of suicide notes that cited his own church’s refusal to marry same-sex couples, discrimination against LGBT people, the use of the death penalty, and cuts to social programs as issues that he had hoped would be highlighted by his death.
Article continues belowBut his final act drew little notice, notes the Dallas News: “A report in the Grand Saline Sun described him as an elderly man who seemed troubled. An article in the Tyler Morning Telegraph asked if he was a ‘madman or a martyr.’“
“I have always felt that death for a cause was my destiny, but never so much as during the past several years — when it has admittedly been a preoccupation,” wrote Moore, in one of the notes he left behind.
“I would much prefer to go on living and enjoy my beloved wife and grandchildren and others, but I have come to believe that only my self-immolation will get the attention of anybody and perhaps inspire some to higher service.”
Friday would have been Moore’s 80th birthday.