Giver of Grace, Taker of None: The Life and Death of Pastor Charles Robert Moore

By WH

Charles Robert Moore was a Methodist Pastor from Grand Saline, Texas. He was born in the fifties, an age of the most unchristian deeds. The times set up the kindling for a fire of social justice, which was then lit at the sprite, young age of 10 years-old.

Moore’s life was filled with great force and gusto, enmeshed with the deepest purposes of mankind. He journeyed to Southeast Asia to help villages, lived and organized in crime-infested and riot-ridden Chicago during the 1960s, and advanced a message of inclusion from many pulpits. At home at a seminary or a soup kitchen, the pastor embodied the fusion of intellect and action.

Moore’s story began and ended in Saline. When he first began preaching, he started at the Methodist church in town, and when the Supreme Court outlawed segregation, he spoke in favor of its action to the congregation. He was ridiculed and ostracised, and he never spoke at that church for the rest of his years. The town also had an annual minstrel show, and he refused to dawn the cruel blackface of vulgar entertainment. His phone rang with threats from the townspeople. He left Saline after that, only to return a few tumultuous decades later.

Moore’s life went on, and he had two kids and several marriages. He grew distant from his wives because of social activism. Whether it was rebuilding a downtrodden church in Austin, reaching out to the gay community when no one would stand by them, or serving on the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, he volunteered himself for the task. Both deeply cerebral and deeply reflective, he could never escape the grueling task of living up to himself.

Moore retired in his sixties, leaving him for the first time with neither a pulpit nor an audience. Aimless and without purpose, the only relief he found was in his grandchildren. The fresh-faced reprieve did not cool for long, though, and soon his purposelessness caught up with him.

If the young do, the elderly reflect. When Moore was a child, he would walk about muttering and reiterating Bible verses to himself. He found his meaning in scripture: the Bible’s social consciousness was his rock. Later with too much free time and a maze of a life, he sought out the meaning of his life accomplishments.

Step-after-step, day-after-day, Moore sought them. He paced to-and-fro, back-and-forth in his home. He searched through the reaches of his soul, with its aged youthful promise, and wondered what became of his work.

Moore lost all interest in anything else. His third wife Barbara told her daughter, “I want to tell him to snap out of it!” He was pondering the ultimate question of human life and philosophy, as Albert Camus saw it: suicide.

Moore set dates, and they passed, until one finally stuck: June 23. He went to a parking lot in town, famous for the younguns’ nightly congregations of alcohol and shenanigans, and on that morning he followed through. It took him a while; he stayed in the empty parking lot for quite a while, contemplating his next act, restlessly. He then decided and took out the red gas can.

The 76 year-old Moore bathed himself in the petrol, and went aflame. His arms were raised, and then he collapsed to the ground. Onlookers ran over, smothering and extinguishing the superficial fire which ended his mental inferno of doubt. He was taken to the hospital, and died shortly after. His family wondered why and how such a thing happened. They prayed over his body and hugged his burnt flesh.

Moore asserted the act was one of atonement for his community’s injustice to black America. “America [and my community]… have never really repented for the atrocities of slavery and its aftermath,” he declared in his suicide note.

Moore’s final time on Earth was filled with doubt about what he had done with his life, and he beat himself up over all the perceived failures and misgivings of his life. In actuality, Moore lived a life anybody would be proud of, to let the world know about and wear upon his face. For his life and his martyrdom, Reverend Jeff Hood, a friend of Moore, commemorated him by stating, “When I look straight ahead into the dark, I see Moore’s bespectacled image burning… I refuse to turn my head.”

Moore exemplified everything right with modern-day Christianity. He stood for the poor, the ostracized, the discriminated, and the damned. He embodied that social activist spirit which can remake the world around it. On that June day in 2014, the world lost one of its better thinkers, who refused to look away from the dastardly qualms of America.


Sources & Further Reading

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