With some ministers claiming they would set themselves on fire if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, one retired minister did just that last year in hopes of showing support for the LGBT and black communities. A 79-year-old retired Methodist minister, Charles Moore, gave the ultimate price to protest the “injustice” he saw in his hometown in Texas. Moore was a vocal LGBT supporter in the 1990s and spent his life trying to eradicate racism and discrimination of all sorts. Moore’s causes included protecting people from racism, ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, and strongly opposing the death penalty. However, the former minister felt that he “needed to do more,” and his life work came to a head last year. On June 23, 2014, the elderly man drove his car to a local strip mall, exited the vehicle, doused himself in gasoline, and set himself on fire. His suicide note explains that the self-immolation was an attempt to die a martyr for the black and LGBT communities.
The Washington Post reported that the married former Methodist minister Charles Moore was a voice of inclusiveness his entire life. Whether it was speaking out against the racism he had witnessed in Texas to the discrimination faced by the homosexual community, Moore felt that the Bible was a book of “radical inclusiveness” not one of discrimination. Therefore, in the 1990s, before the LGBT community had a strong voice in the mainstream media, Moore went on a two-week hunger strike to promote the removal of discriminatory language against homosexuals.
Moore was also vocal about his experiences with racism while living in small town Grand Saline, Texas, as a child. Moore says that he frequently saw the oppression and horrific acts against the black community in the town that the Ku Klux Klan called home. Moore recounts one instance when he was 10-years-old that a man was bragging about killing black people and putting their heads on a pole.
“When I was about 10 years old, some friends and I were walking down the road toward the creek to catch some fish, when a man called ‘Uncle Billy’ stopped us and called us into his home for a drink of water — but his real purpose was to cheerily tell us about helping to kill ‘n—–s’ and put their heads up on a pole.”
Despite spending his life and position as a religious leader to promote an anti-racism platform and to discourage discrimination of the homosexual community, Moore says he didn’t do enough. He outlined in a suicide letter left on his vehicle the reason for his self-inflicted fiery death.
“I have no significant achievements to offer from that period so that my influence on contemporary issues might have a significant impact so I am laying down my life here today, in order to call attention to issues of great human concern.”
The Tyler Morning Telegraph obtained a copy of Charles Moore’s suicide letter after the former minister died from self-immolation. Moore plainly states that he wished to “join” the victims of past racial horrors by “giving my body to be burned.” Moore stated his wishes that America and Grand Saline would open their hearts to black people and really repent for the past atrocities of slavery.
“I will soon be 80 years old, and my heart is broken over this. America, and Grand Saline… have never really repented for the atrocities of slavery and its aftermath. What my hometown needs to do is open its heart and its doors to black people as a sign of the rejection of past sins. So at this late date, I have decided to join them by giving my body to be burned. With love in my heart not only for them but also of the perpetrators of such horror.”
Though Reverend Charles Moore was willing to set himself on fire to stand with the black and homosexual community, other ministers have promised to set themselves on fire if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage a year later. However, after same-sex marriage was made legal across the United States, at least one minister backed down and says he will not be setting himself on fire anytime soon.
What do you think of the Texas minister’s extreme actions to bring awareness about the plight of the black and homosexual communities? Was Charles Moore’s death an act of madness or that of a martyr?
[Image Credit: The Moore Family via Washington Post]