Authoritarian rage serves a purpose

By practicing DARVO, these Southern Baptists hope to obscure the real story of spousal abuse in pastoral ranks.

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Y’all, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) pastor Tom Buck is super-upset these days. This longtime Old Guard gadfly just can’t seem to catch a break! This time, he found out that his enemies in the Pretend Progressives faction have apparently prematurely exposed his wife’s written account of the emotional abuse he inflicted on her in the early years of their marriage. He’s convinced that those enemies seek to “silence” him–and it happened right before Easter, no less! Do his evil, wicked enemies feel no shame? None at all? Or at least as much as he should feel? Today, I’ll show you why this outrage is entirely misplaced–and why nobody needs to “silence” someone like Tom Buck.

Everyone, meet Tom Buck–and Lindale, Texas

Tom Buck pastors an SBC-affiliated church in Lindale, Texas.

You’d be forgiven easily for never having heard of the town. It’s in East Texas and boasts a population of just under 5k. Lindale’s school board made big news back in 1996 when they banned 32 books from their school’s English reading list. The list, including To Kill a Mockingbird and The Scarlet Letter, offended the hothouse orchids on the school board. One of them declared that these books turned teenage boys into “ticking time bombs.”

At the time, the school board’s president was John Offutt, whose day job was pastoring another Baptist church in town. And he gladly admitted in public that the book bannination had been done “to make students adhere to Christian beliefs.”

1995 was a strange, strange time, y’all.

By then, First Baptist of Lindale was already growing quickly, according to their own biography page. They hired Tom Buck in 2006, bringing him in from Florida. He has a D.Min in “Expository Preaching” from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. That’s the one Al Mohler leads.

And boy howdy, is he an Old Guard stalwart just like Mohler.

Sidebar: Quick faction review

Currently, the SBC divides itself along stark factional lines. If you thought shipping wars in fanfic got acrimonious, well, you’ve got some surprises ahead.

First, we have the Old Guard. These are extremely conservative, ultra-authoritarian, hyper-politicized culture warriors. Their leaders express intense anxiety over the idea of the SBC getting too “woke” and liberalized. They look to the Conservative Resurgence (late 1970s-late 1990s) as their greatest victory and ongoing ideal state. They want to steer the SBC back to those halcyon days. Al Mohler hangs out in this group.

An especially-extremist subfaction of the Old Guard wants to take things even further. They hate Al Mohler and think he just might possibly be a pro-choice feminist Democrat. And they are slowly taking over their faction. Tom Ascol, Mike Stone, and many others live here.

Second, we have Pretend Progressives. They are also extremely conservative, ultra-authoritarian, hyper-politicized culture warriors. In their beliefs, they vary not at all from their Old Guard enemies. However, they act nicer toward sex-abuse victims, and they accept a scholarly framework called “critical race theory” (CRT) as a way to understand the social and legal systems that perpetuate racism. For that tiny difference, they endure smears and insults unending from the first faction. We find the past and current presidents of the SBC, J.D. Greear and Ed Litton respectively, here.

A very tiny subfaction of Pretend Progressives do seem to want real change in the SBC. They will be vastly disappointed, sooner or later.

Tom Buck is Old Guard, very probably Extremist Old Guard. Every one of the men he rails against are Pretend Progressives.

Tom Buck is always very upset about something

For years now, Tom Buck has been needling and antagonizing Pretend Progressives on social media. Back in 2019, the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) blocked him on Twitter. At the time, a Pretend Progressive named Russell Moore headed it.

After his blocking, Buck cried up a storm about the cosmic injustice of it all to Old Guard-friendly sites like Capstone Report. In turn, they, being faction warriors just like him, were all too happy to shower him with attention.

(If you check out the story, you’ll notice that he’s also very upset about some group called LivingOutOrg. I have no clue why. I scanned their Twitter account. It’s the usual anti-trans, anti-gay blahblah. If he’s this deeply concerned about the ERLC and LivingOutOrg spending their time wisely, then I hope he’ll allow someone he trusts to gently point out how much time it clearly takes him to go on these silly, pointless, attention-seeking rampages of his.)

Well, fast forward a few years. Now, embittered by years of antagonistic faction warfare, Tom Buck now seeks our attention and sympathy for this huge new injustice he’s been dealt by his enemies.

In fact, it is hands down the worst injustice that anybody in the history of forever has ever faced, ever.

You see, some evil Pretend Progressive cravenly and viciously and with malice aforethought, with only the cruelest of intentions and most wicked methods…

… leaked an early version of his wife’s intended-for-publication, voluntarily-written account of his shocking abuse of her.

Wait, what?

Yes.

Capstone calls this leak a “despicable attack”:

[This leak] showcased the low that Woke Southern Baptists attain in their attempt to silence conservatives and win another SBC Presidential election.

Capstone Report, 4/12/22

In retaliation, because obviously TRUE CHRISTIANS™ simply must retaliate against all attacks and escalate to the point of no return, Tom Buck promises “bombshells” that will level his enemies and destroy their entire faction.

Here’s how the leak went down, according to Tom Buck himself:

On April 1, I received a phone call informing me that the powers that be in the SBC were shopping my wife’s rough draft concerning our marriage to news outlets [. . .]

Tom Buck twitter feed, 4/12/22

He assumes (and you know what assumptions do to U and me, right?) that this leak occurred to silence his clarion voice of capital-T TRUTH crying in the wilderness. And that the Pretend Progressives did it.

What this rough draft means for Tom Buck

Jennifer Buck, the wife of Tom Buck, published her revised account on the Calvinist-leaning G3 website. G3 plants and helps to grow conservative evangelical churches. (Its leader, Josh Buice, loves to dish out social-media abuse to women who don’t conform to his worldview. That fact may become relevant shortly.)

Tom Buck himself contributes a blog to G3’s site and teaches his style of “expository preaching” to G3 members. While Josh Buice slammed Beth Moore for leaving the SBC, Buck prided himself on adopting a tone with this grown, Bible-educated lady that reminds me of nothing less than a sorrowful authoritarian daddy about to brutally punish a wayward child.

As for this post Jennifer Buck wrote, “A Story of Restorative Grace,” it’s sad beyond words. In it, Jennifer Buck discusses how emotionally abusive her husband was at the start of their marriage. For the sake of those who’ve faced the uncontrollable rage of authoritarian evangelical men toward their chosen victims, I won’t quote it. Just know that it’s the usual behavior one expects of such men. After four or five years, the verbal and emotional abuse began to escalate to the terrifyingly physical.

At that point, Tom Buck became dimly aware that his behavior was about to cost him his marriage. With a lot of coaching from a concerned older couple at church, he began to make kicking-and-screaming baby steps toward basic human decency. The situation improved just enough for Jennifer Buck to stay with him.

Nowadays, she considers this story PROOF YES PROOF of a real live god dispensing real live grace to his followers. At the end, we learn that the Bucks, though still dealing with serious problems, now counsel other troubled couples.

Hooray Team Jesus!

How was this leak supposed to silence Tom Buck?

I really and truly do not get how a premature leak of this story was supposed to “silence” Tom Buck. To my knowledge, he’s not running for any offices this summer. He isn’t anybody important in the Old Guard’s power network. Until this story, I’d barely even heard of him–and only because he’s a shameless toady who can rationalize any wrong committed by his faction leaders.

For that matter, he has nothing to say that we haven’t heard before. Every tweet of his always sounds like an unimportant, mediocre middle-aged white dude trying desperately to sound like he’s in the thick of intrigue and important goings-on with the Cool Kids’ Club, when the cool kids barely even know who he is.

And let’s focus on the important parts of this story:

  • His own wife wrote this post of her own free will.
  • She voluntarily published it on the G3 site on April 7, 2022.
  • G3 and Tom Buck work together and have for what sounds like many years.
  • Baptist News (which is not Baptist Press, the official SBC news site; these guys are more progressive) tells us that Tom Ascol and some other Extremist Old Guard guys loved the article.

What about an early leak would bother them so much? The article is horrifying all by itself. It’s the best evidence any feminist could ever hope to have against complementarianism. It’s the best evidence any non-Christian could ever hope to have against Christian claims, period. And it was getting published anyway, and it was something that the Old Guard thought represented them well and made points the way they liked best. So what was the problem?

I suspect the Old Guard is placing blame incorrectly here

Ah. I see now.

Baptist News reveals that Jennifer Buck wrote an earlier version of this G3 article in 2018. Originally, her article described much worse abuse–to the point of her fearing for her life. This version was meant to be published pseudonymously right after Paige Patterson (Old Guard) got fired from his SBC seminary position. Someone “close to the Bucks” leaked this older version to various news outlets, including Baptist News, almost two weeks before its newer version saw daylight.

If any Pretend Progressive leaders got ahold of her story at all, how did it even happen? Every step in the path from writing to publishing happened in Old Guard hands and on Old Guard turf. It’s beyond impossible to imagine that Jennifer Buck would have entrusted any copies of this essay to anyone the couple didn’t trust completely.

However, this is where I mention how impossible it is to keep secrets in authoritarian groups. They’re gossip mills for a reason. In their circles, betrayed confidences become a daily source of delicious, titillating discussion.

Secrets mean power traded, power wielded, power stolen. They are prized currency.

So yes, indeed, someone betrayed the Bucks’ trust. Mark my words: whoever leaked this document is someone the Bucks consider a trusted friend. It’s likely someone who considers themself a solid Old Guard member who justifies this betrayal by painting it as them being caught between the rock of morality and the hard place of factional loyalty. Perhaps it even is.

And then, an anonymous Twitter account began needling Tom Buck about that earlier version, just as he’d needled the ERLC years earlier.

Rules for thee, never for Tom Buck

Rules for thee, never for me, as authoritarians like to think. It’s perfectly okay for Tom Buck to do it to others, but never okay for anyone else to do it to Tom Buck.

Meanwhile, Baptist News takes as read that the goal of this leak was to discredit Tom Buck somehow. Apparently, he’s been stumping hard for the Extremist Old Guard candidate, Tom Ascol. If he turned out to be an abusive TPOS, then well gosh, that might reflect very poorly on Tom Ascol!

Again, I had barely even heard of him. And in reality, Tom Ascol himself reflects very poorly on Tom Ascol, as do all members of the Old Guard.

The SBC is dying by inches without regard for who wins this year’s presidential election, but his election will only spell speedier disaster for an increasingly out-of-touch denomination full of abuse enablers and predator protectors. I can think of no other current figure in the SBC who reminds me more of Donald Trump.

How the Extremist Old Guard swung into action

And just as Donald Trump had his enablers and protectors, Tom Ascol–and his supporters–have their own.

These brave knights-in-imaginary-armor immediately attacked the source of the leaks, an anonymous Twitter account. One of these self-styled TRUE CHRISTIANS™, Jordan Hall, threatened this account (and ended with an unmistakable sarcastic sneer):

Dear @abusedspouse14, I am coming for you. When it is over, you will be exposed, humiliated, and prosecuted. Good luck.

Jordan Hall, 4/5/22. Gyarsh, Shaggy, it just sounds so CHRISTLIKE! We’ve just gotta check out his religion! He’s just like Jesus! So much love and forgiveness and mercy!

Gosh, all these mediocre authoritarian dudes were sure super-upset about this leak. I can see why.

But you know what they weren’t upset at all about? What none of them expressed the least amount of anger or upset about?

The actual abuse that prompted the creation of both document versions.

Plagiarism = RESIGN NOW NOW NOW NOW

Spousal abuse = DESTROY THE INFIDEL LEAKER

Okay.

TRUE CHRISTIANITY™ means getting angry at the wrong things

It blows my mind in a way, but in another it’s entirely expected. DARVO all but demands that Tom Buck and his pals come out swinging hard against their detractors. It’s not like they can defend themselves in any more legitimate way.

DARVO means:

  1. Deny
  2. Attack
  3. Reverse Victim and Offender

By painting himself as the poor widdle victim of a meaniepie leak, while entirely denying/ignoring the fact that the leak was about his abuse of his own wife, Tom Buck clearly hopes to escape the scrutiny that cost Paige Patterson his job–and not hinder his faction leader, Tom Ascol, from reaching the heights of SBC power.

Definitely, the Old Guard doesn’t want anybody to wonder about just how common spousal abuse is in their pastoral ranks.

And by the way, I’d never have run across this scandal if Tom Buck hadn’t oh-so-wistfully Just Asked Questions about why-oh-why Ed Litton hasn’t resigned yet over SermonGate. I found out some more stuff about that scandal, too, but we’ll talk about that one next time. For now, just sigh with me at the ongoing very earthly and very human hypocrisy of these self-appointed blowhard ambassadors of the Prince of Peace and Lord of Love.

Gosh, y’all. They’re just so, I dunno, DIFFERENT I guess!

NEXT UP: I’ll tell ya exactly why the Old Guard didn’t clamor too hard for J.D. Greear to resign when he got caught doing much the same thing Ed Litton did. It sure ain’t because they grew in discernment and morality since then! See you soon.

ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...