A Progressive pastor's passion for social justice burned so intensely that he ignited into flames and died from spontaneous combustion.
Well, maybe not.
Last month the Reverend Charles Moore drove himself to a mall in Grand Saline, Texas, doused himself with gasoline, and set himself aflame. Rescuers took him to Parkland Hospital where he died the following day.
According to friends and supporters, Moore apparently grew frustrated over attitude of his home town, the nation at large, and his United Methodist Church on issues such as race relations, LGBT issues, and the death penalty.
Passages from the suicide note he left behind suggest he also believed in collective guilt that transcends individual people and time itself:
"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."
Unsuccessful at forcing others to adopt his religious beliefs, especially the social implications of those beliefs, Moore began deliberating on more drastic action. Revealing his "Jesus complex," he called this period his "Gethsemane." He finally made his decision:
"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."
He knew he would not live to see just how many people he would inspire, but he no doubt took vicarious pleasure as he made his preparations. In this small way he resembles those mass murders as they plan their horrendous crimes. They, too, know they will not live to see everyone talking about them and giving them the attention they believe they deserve but never receive.
Moore made one severe miscalculation. Unlike the mass murderers who actually do attract the post-mortem attention they crave, Moore received almost no attention.
His friends and supporters now have come out to tell his story.