Monthly Archives: November 2016

The Self-Immolation of Reverend Moore

Wanting something is the wrong way to go about getting it done.

Nobody knew this like Reverend Charles Robert Moore.  He wanted so many things.  The ruling in Brown vs. The Board of Education ended legal segregation in the United States, and the young reverend was fired from his post for celebrating this in the most cautious sense from the pulpit.  He would not make that mistake ever again, to be cautious in the face of injustice. He stood outside the governor’s mansion protesting the executions of 150 prisoners during Governor George Bush’s tenure.  He defied the traditions and doctrine of the Methodist Church by opening the doors of his church to the nascent Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays in Austin, but being tolerated by the church was not enough for him.  He stopped eating, and on the 15th day of his fast the bishops acquiesced to his demand that the church accept responsibility for its contribution to the suffering of the gay community, which they did by proclamation.  His faith took him to India, Africa, the Middle East, Chicago, Austin, and ultimately back to his hometown of Grand Saline, Texas where his deepest memories of shame and inequality were born.

Reverend Moore made a mess of his life.  All three of his marriages ended because he could not make room for the comfort and love of relationships that distracted from his desire for justice. His children suffered his absences.

At 79 years-old, in 2014, he was elated by the election of Barack Obama, the first and only black President of the United States, but the hatred and racism that accompanied the moment left him heart-sick and stricken with defeat. His lifetime of wanting had brought him nowhere. He was still in Grand Saline, Texas, a child unable to make a difference. Charlie Moore was a coward, a failure, a loser.

On June 23rd of that year he drove to a strip mall on the edge of town in Grand Saline.  He paced for hours in front of the Dollar General store, while curious watchers noticed him, musing about his circumstances.  They watched him finally open his trunk, pull a foam pad from it and place it on the ground.  Those watching assumed he must be praying, perhaps a Muslim.  He kneeled and lifted a container to his head and poured liquid all over his legs, his chest, and his head.  Being June in Texas it was a steamy afternoon.

As the fumes from the gasoline choked his breath away, he pulled from his pocket a lighter and sparked it.


On the windshield of his car, he left this note.