Why do so many people in the U.S have negative, wrongheaded impressions of Orthodox Christianity?
Because they've lumped it together with the Roman Catholic Church ("Catholocism without the Pope and with an ethnic bend") and have drawn their own conclusions based on that.
"Are you going to start preaching to us now?"
I got this from people, but mostly because I had had a reputation for preaching before my conversion! I didn't blame them, as I had given them cause to feel this way. I just said, "no," let them ask questions, then answered them simply and moved on. They saw soon enough that I wasn't out to buttonhole them about Orthodoxy, and relaxed eventually.
and then the often-seen "rolling of the eyes" when you tell someone you are Orthodox Christian.
Well, you do
live near Wheaton College, my friend! From what Fr. John has told me, word has gotten around; people may be bothered -- or even threatened! -- by yet another person who's gone over to "that side."
I would though be very interesed in reading other's experiences not with family but with friends, neighbors and co-workers. How did you handle it? How do you wish you would have handled it?
Friends: the guy I helped lead our high-school Bible Study (and who was eventually the best man at my wedding) and I have been discussing things for about four years. It's gotten heated at times, but for the most part, he's willing to concede when he doesn't really know something about the Faith. So it's been OK. The rest of my friends think it's great I'm no longer some Bible-thumper who winces noticeably whenever someone cusses....
Our neighbors are, in order, 1) evangelicals who used to live (work, really) in Greece, and so are very sympathetic to Orthodoxy (not hostile at all, really), 2) Lebanese muslims who have many Orthodox friends in Lebanon and know much about the Faith already, so they're nice about it, 3) Seventh-Day adventists who, though we differ greatly in theology (and can debate for hours on it!), are wonderful friends we go bowling with and have dinner with.
Co-workers: I've actually gotten to sit down with one co-worker and go in-depth with her re: the historical development of the Church...she was doing a Bible Study at her Baptist Church and volunteered to do some research on Eastern Orthodoxy. She hadn't heard of almost all the things I mentioned, and was very appreciative.
Another ornery RC co-worker just calls me a "good Catholic boy," then says (w/a wink), "close enough!" when I tell her, "ehhh...not really."
Another co-worker is the wife of an Episcopalian priest and is always interested in how the East does things...I'm hoping they (she and her husband, Fr. Bill) will come to Pascha this next year!
So my experiences, by and large, are positive. Sorry to hear you're having such a bad time, spartacus.