They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!
– 2 Timothy 3:5, NLT
The Reconciliation Industrial Complex (RIC) is a term used on the Chump Lady blog, which is a website devoted to supporting faithful spouses or “chumps.” On her website, Chump Lady defines RIC as “the vague conspiracy sense that religious and for-profit institutions want you to try to reconcile indefinitely” (link to definition here).
The Reconciliation Industrial Complex (RIC) is alive and well in the evangelical church, sadly!
They give religious advice but this advice lacks the power to make people godly or more like Christ in some very critical areas. This advice enables soul rapists recommending such awful things as insisting adultery victims return to their violator without strong evidence the sinful behaviors have ended.
They remember that God has given us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18), yet they forget Jesus also says to some thinking they are saved from damnation: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt. 25:41b, KJV).
God holds us accountable for our choices and actions.
And God demands repentance before commanding forgiveness (e.g. Luke 17:4).
This website exists in large part to undo the damage done by church leaders who are complicit in the Reconciliation Industrial Complex (RIC). These leaders teach or act as if divorce is worse than ongoing adultery. They are more concerned about offering wicked mercy–i.e. enabling cheaters to continue to lie and commit adultery–than offering mercy to adultery victims.
As a pastor myself, I find the complicity with The Reconciliation Industrial Complex (RIC) sickening.
It is disheartening, too. When trying to find good resources to support faithful spouses, I have to treat most with extreme caution. Even the “good” resources from explicitly Christian origins usually operate from a divorce-phobic perspective as if God hates divorce more than adultery when He does not.
Concepts like forgiveness and reconciliation are twisted out of shape to mean faithful spouses must stay or pursue their cheating spouse even when God clearly states that they do not and may divorce without shame (see here and here).
The advice looks good at face value (i.e. What Christian could be against a ‘good’ reconciliation and redemption story?!), but it is reality denying.
Such teachers fail to grasp and appreciate that some people actually prefer the darkness over walking in the light as Jesus instructs us (John 3:19). Such people include spouses who prefer infidelity over honoring their marriage vows before God. They made choices. For cheaters, these choices just happen to be choices contrary to those compatible with walking with the Lord.
Accepting divorce in such situations says that one accepts the ugly reality that we live in a world broken by sin. Insisting on perpetual marriage reconciliation efforts says that the pastor is unwilling to accept that some people reject godliness and their victims must forever suffer alongside them for such wicked choices. That is not teaching godliness but rather teaching maintaining legalistic appearances is more important than addressing the evil in their midst.
If faithful spouses get “uppity” and actually exercise the permission to divorce given to them by Jesus Himself (see Mt. 5:32 and 19:9), the Christian RIC members bust out the religious shaming guns. They call faithful spouses “unforgiving” and “bitter.” Some may go as far as to call or imply the divorced (and remarried) faithful spouse is adulterous like their living former partner!
Fear drives such teaching of this I am convinced.
1. Pastors fear advocating for divorce–even in Biblically warranted situations–as who wants to be the pastor with a divorced-marked church. It is much “prettier” and ego-stroking to be known as the pastor or Christian leader who “saved” x many marriages or presided over their restoration.
2. Another fear in operation in furthering the RIC in churches is the fear about not having control regarding one’s marriage. This is the fear that perpetuates “The Shared Responsibility Lie.” The lie says that a spouse is partially responsible for the sin of the other partner when the truth is that we alone are fully responsible for our own sin (e.g. 2 Cor. 5:10).
One sells that the faithful spouse must continue efforts to reconcile because that suggests they have control over the situation and marriage outcome (even though they do not). Suggesting that divorce is sometimes godly and necessary is a surrender to marriage vulnerability. It acknowledges that any marriage can end through the unilateral decision by one partner to choose sin over godliness.
3. Fear of personal discomfort is in operation for some “Christian” leaders. Perhaps, they so hate conflict that they are unwilling to have the difficult conversation needed regarding the ongoing infidelity? It is easier to just tell the hurting the spouse to “pray about it” and keep seeking reconciliation than take steps to enforce a godly boundary in such matters. Besides, they do not want to look judgmental and taking a stance against adultery looks that way. “There’s always two sides to the story” is the ruse they use to give cover to such cowardice.
4. Fear of loosing money may be behind this false teaching on reconciliation. Pastors may not want to drive away the richer, cheating partner by confronting him or her over the adultery. If they are paid per counseling session, money can be behind requiring more and more “reconciliation” efforts by the faithful spouse beyond what is godly (or even reasonable).
Finally, inexperience and ignorance may be behind the RIC in churches. As I stated above, most resources on these matters–including the good ones–are so divorce-adverse that they promote positions that effectively enable ongoing adultery. So, a pastor or Christian leader is going against the flow to take a firm and godly stance against adultery and require evidence of repentance before even considering marriage reconciliation as a godly option. My hope is Divorce Minister is reaching these pastors encouraging and equipping them to take the truly Biblical stance that understands that divorce can be a godly choice (see Jeremiah 3:8 and Matthew 1:19).
One blog post at a time, I hope the message gets out and the RIC in the church is demolished by the truth that offers real good news and mercy to adultery victims.
It is past time the Church took adultery seriously!