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Author Topic: Orthodoxy intimidating?  (Read 2560 times) Average Rating: 0
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spartacus
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« on: August 18, 2004, 12:37:24 PM »

Why do so many people in the U.S have negative, wrongheaded impressions of Orthodox Christianity?

I never realized this until we converted. I expected some comments from my RC family members and we dealt with that...but what I was not ready for was the total ignorance of neighbors and friends.

"So why did you join the Greek Orthodox Church? You're not Greek?"

"Oh we are having a barbecue on Friday. Would you be offended if we invite you, I know you don't eat meat on Fridays?"

"Are you going to start preaching to us now?"

"I don't see your wife and daughters wearing those funny head things when you go to Church on Sunday"

and then the often-seen "rolling of the eyes" when you tell someone you are Orthodox Christian.

I realize the Church is relatively new in the U.S. and ignorance is common. I also realize that many Americans think "Orthodox Jew" when they hear the word "Orthodox".

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?


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« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2004, 02:21:15 PM »

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"Oh we are having a barbecue on Friday. Would you be offended if we invite you, I know you don't eat meat on Fridays?"


I don't see what's ignorant about this question.  If anything, they're expressing some knowledge about you and your lifestyle and asking if it was okay with you.  Most people, I think, would say something like, "Well, go ahead and eat that baby back rib, you're not going to hell just because you eat it..."

I think that people just have no idea about Orthodoxy at all and that's why they can ask some silly questions every now and then.  They really are ignorant in the most literal sense of the word.
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spartacus
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« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2004, 02:25:31 PM »

"Well, go ahead and eat that baby back rib, you're not going to hell just because you eat it..."


Word for word exactly what I said in response......The shrimp though was excellent.
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Fr. David
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« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2004, 02:57:50 PM »

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.

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"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.

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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."

Quote
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."  Roll Eyes

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.
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spartacus
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« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2004, 03:20:54 PM »

So my experiences, by and large, are positive.  Sorry to hear you're having such a bad time, spartacus.

It's not a bad time...it's just something I had not expected or even thought about. Yes, we expected somethings from the RC family members -- strangely the worst ones are the ones are the C&E Catholics who only go to Church at Christams and Easter ...or have strayed off into being totally unchurched or become Baptists.

It seems they are afraid or intimidated because they do not understand. Someone once told me that cultural Catholics who leave the Church become Protestants. But when the real serious Catholics leave -- they become Orthodox.
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PhosZoe
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« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2004, 03:27:06 PM »

Sorry you're having a hard time! Sad  

People make comments, jokes and quips because they are ignorant. Take time erase people's misconceptions, if you're comfortable make a joke about it.  

Example: I don't see you and your daughters donning headscarves.
Answer: No, we live in this century too. However, some women choose to wear a headscarf in church.


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« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2004, 03:45:20 PM »

Oh, spartacus, my new friend, I truly and with empathetic anguish relate to your experiences.
I am an old, at 54, cradle Orthodox and well remember fielding such questions in high school (my church was directly across the street from the school) as:"Do you Greeks REALLY sacrifice to Zeus over there?" and other drivel. Sadly, I would just reply "No, we are the Christians" and leave it at that, forgiving them for what they did not know.
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If some want to know if you're about to preach to them, ask, "Do you want me to?". Love them all.

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spartacus
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« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2004, 05:41:43 PM »

Oh, spartacus, my new friend, I truly and with empathetic anguish relate to your experiences.
I am an old, at 54, cradle Orthodox and well remember fielding such questions in high school (my church was directly across the street from the school) as:"Do you Greeks REALLY sacrifice to Zeus over there?" and other drivel. Sadly, I would just reply "No, we are the Christians" and leave it at that, forgiving them for what they did not know.
Rejoice that you have found the Pearl of Great Price, the Truth, the Church of the New Testament.
If some want to know if you're about to preach to them, ask, "Do you want me to?". Love them all.

Demetri

Maybe that's why the Greek Orthodox kids at my public schools growing up did not really want to share any information about their church?
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teresita
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« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2004, 07:47:41 AM »

I’m not alone! Tuesday night I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown, but sharing with all of you have helped me immensely. In addition, I had a two hours conversation with my mother who has been, so understanding and supportive taking in consideration what strong Catholic she is in practice and study. She actually asked me for material to read about the Orthodox faith.

These have been some of the comments in my experience:
- “Why are you considering convert? Is he pressuring you?” - My answer to the first time was “No, he is not. I just want us to go together to church as a family. This is all my idea.” My answer to the second time? Nothing, I just changed the subject. Of course the “Well, I don’t think you should” came alongGǪ..with the rolling eyes.
- “You don’t need to convert. I am going to take you for a weekend of retrieve” - My answer was just a simple smile. I never went for the weekend.
- “I remember went I converted to [name of the ethnic group]? - I didn’t say anything, and again I stayed silence, but in my mind I was “ I don’t want to loose my identity!”

These have come from people very close to my heart, and it hurts. I may have to change the Maid of Honor of my wedding because I think she is having a problem with the fact that I am having an Orthodox ceremony. I am waiting for her decision.

In terms of the Parish, my experience with the priest has been wonderful! I recently met the other priest and he was very nice. The people? Not so easy to communicate. We have been able to share very little with other members of the parish. We went to a coffee hour once and no one came close to say hi. We felt that the coffee hour is more for parents. They are mostly families, and elderly. We don’t really see couples without children. I like the church. Today I feel in closer communication with God than in the last few years and I look forward to every Sunday.

Teresita  Cheesy Did you see that I have a bigger smile today?!..lol

 
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Teresita
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« Reply #9 on: August 19, 2004, 02:27:33 PM »

Here are a few of the reasons, I think:

1.  Most folks tend to see us as ethnic churches (and wonder why the heck we would join an ethnic church if we are not of the given ethnic group).  Thank our historical lack of outreach for that, compounded by the few images that have filtered their way through the popular culture (eg, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which was a rather funny film, but really reinforced stereotypes about Orthodoxy).

2.  From the Catholic camp, depending on their own position in the Catholic spectrum, people either think that (1) we are ueber conservative (and therefore they are suspicious) or (2) we are just like Catholics, but smaller, more splintered and less influential than Catholicism and therefore why bother converting to Orthodoxy and not Catholicism (the attitude being that Catholicism is "default" apostolic Christianity, whilst the Orthodox Churches are apostolic Christianity for ethnics) or (3) (for Catholics who convert) why the heck would you leave the Pope, he's such a holy man!

3.  From the Protestant perspective, we seem like we are Catholics on steroids ... everything they don't like about the Catholic Church writ large.  And therefore we 'goin' to hail', together with the Catholics.

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« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2004, 08:02:08 AM »

I suspect ethnicity is some of it though the ROCOR and Antiochan churches in the US have large non-ethnic parishes.Though, admittedly, Greek Orthodox appear to be extraordinarily suspicious of non-Greek newcomers.But, a more troubling aspect I've noticed is the smugness of Orthodox converts. There seems to be a need to put down everyone who is not Orthodox, and this is extremely offputting and disturbing since in the US it is the converts that are educating  the public with books and articles I know there is concern that Orthodox converts are setting ecumenical discussions back with extremist, isolationist attitudes.

My own decision to go Eastern Rite is based on this tendency. I personally would love to see union between Catholics and the Orthodox (doctrinal diferences mean little to me), but if US Orthodox converts have any say in the matter I'm afraid it will never happen.

I'm aware that not all converts are like this, and I don't mean any disrespect. I'm going on my experiences and that of othersI know.
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« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2004, 09:18:24 AM »

But, a more troubling aspect I've noticed is the smugness of Orthodox converts. There seems to be a need to put down everyone who is not Orthodox, and this is extremely offputting and disturbing since in the US it is the converts that are educating  the public with books and articles

Good call, trinityc.

Quote
I know there is concern that Orthodox converts are setting ecumenical discussions back with extremist, isolationist attitudes.  My own decision to go Eastern Rite is based on this tendency. I personally would love to see union between Catholics and the Orthodox (doctrinal diferences mean little to me), but if US Orthodox converts have any say in the matter I'm afraid it will never happen.

Well, I don't know...I don't think that converts are solely to "blame" (though I don't think blame is in order) for pointing out very real differences between the two Churches.  There are plenty of cradle Orthodox, both lay and clergy, who are very opposed to any swift and convenient union between the two Churches.  Again, it comes down to seeing real differences...which is annoying to many (though by no means all) in the West, but that's where we stand.
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spartacus
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« Reply #12 on: August 20, 2004, 09:55:05 PM »

Something that I think must also be considered is after the communist revoltuion in Russia, many Orthodox Churches were viewed supicously by an ignorant American public.


As far as converts....in my opinion, the converts who wear the garb of Russian peasants from the 19th Century...with women covering their heads and men wearing long greasy hair and beards...is intimidating...I've seen lots of old family and Russian Orthodox parish photos from the turn of the century and nobody dressed like that in any of them  -- save perhaps for some bishops and monks.

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« Reply #13 on: August 20, 2004, 10:12:45 PM »

Something that I think must also be considered is after the communist revoltuion in Russia, many Orthodox Churches were viewed supicously by an ignorant American public.


As far as converts....in my opinion, the converts who wear the garb of Russian peasants from the 19th Century...with women covering their heads and men wearing long greasy hair and beards...is intimidating...I've seen lots of old family and Russian Orthodox parish photos from the turn of the century and nobody dressed like that in any of them  -- save perhaps for some bishops and monks.



Until the early 20th century less than 2% of the American public was Orthodox. The immigrants of the early 20th century were largely Roman Catholic and Orthodox and were viewed with suspicion and were regarded as buffoons, drunks, communist.  There were "Americanization classes" that taught these new immigrants how to eat, look, dress, speak and WORSHIP like americans. In addition they were encouraged to shorten thier names and use "American" versions of thier first names.

I find it ironic when I see people dressing like 19th century peasants, I often wonder if thier relatives were teaching my relatives to be "American."



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