Author Topic: Handling Opposition  (Read 4735 times)

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Offline Milliardo

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Handling Opposition
« on: May 10, 2005, 07:10:06 AM »
For those who converted to the Orthodox Church or are in the process, was there any opposition coming from family and friends, and how did you handle it?

Offline jmbejdl

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Re: Handling Opposition
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2005, 07:58:06 AM »
Yes. My mother is a staunch Lutheran and extremely anti-Catholic (by which I mean RC). She couldn't understand my conversion to the Orthodox Church at all and really had no understanding of our faith. She viewed Orthodoxy as a sort of Popeless eastern version of the RCs and she's a complete iconoclast, so that didn't help either. For a long time I tried to respond by explaining the differences with her, but my attempt at educating her only seemed to have the effect of upsetting her more. The last straw for me was when she loudly stated, within earshot of our priest, at my son's baptism that we should have had him baptised in a Protestant church - which was a completely ludicrous suggestion as both I and my wife are commited to our Orthodox faith, not to say completely tactless of her. After that I resolved not to ever bring up our faith with her again but only to respond, whilst trying not to get offended, when she raised the issue. Amazingly that worked. I just tried to live my faith fully and let that be an illustration of what I believed and answered her questions when they came up. I doubt she'll ever convert but she has a much better understanding of Orthodoxy, no longer complains about my icons and no longer suggests that I or my son should be Protestant. She still gets on my nerves at times (but I try not to rise to the bait) - usually when she suggests that as we live in Britain we should try to 'fit in' more (i.e. tone down our 'weird' differences on things like name days and the date of Easter). Her religion might be one of convenience, but mine most certainly is not! Actually, I doubt hers is either - I can't imagine her celebrating Orthodox Easter if she lived in Russia just to 'fit in' - but who says parents should be consistent?

We owe greater gratitude to those who humble us, wrong us, and douse us with venom, than to those who nurse us with honour and sweet words, or feed us with tasty food and confections, for bile is the best medicine for our soul. - Elder Paisios of Mount Athos

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Re: Handling Opposition
« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2005, 05:37:07 PM »
At the risk of sounding prideful, and being misunderstood, I'd like to share a few lines. This isn't something I share very often, but there was a good bit of resentment from many of my friends when I converted. When I became a Protestant, I was "on fire"... not so much for the Lord as for, well, my own version of Christianity. Anyway, in some significant ways I changed when I became a Christian, and between my own influence and that of my one friend, about 5 of my friends "gave their life to Christ" and another 4 or 5 started going to church on a regular basis. This was totally unheard of for almost all of them (as it had been for me).

A couple years after converting, I went to Bible College, but came back a year later a changed man. No longer able to be a Protestant, I cut most ties with the former Church I had been a part of. Then, what must have seemed like coming out of the blue to my friends, I tell them that I'm thinking about becoming Orthodox, which must have seemed hopelessly sectarian, idolatrous, and ethnically-focused to them. I'm sure that's what their pastor told them about Orthodoxy, it's certainly what he told me. After that, most of my friends dropped away from going to Church. At least a couple expressed confusion and even intense anger at my seemingly rejecting them and leaving them hanging.

I guess the moral of the story is, let people know what you are doing, and don't try to keep it under a bushel. Maybe one or two will come along with you. Maybe not. Either way, it's probably better than saying nothing at all.

From my family, there was almost no problems whatsoever. My mother was only concerned, I think, when I mentioned monasticism, as she wanted grand children; but even in this she was most worried about "whatever made me happy". My Father was raised a Catholic, and while he disliked "organized religion," I think he rather likes Orthodoxy-- from a distance anyway. My grand mother was confused about the whole affair, and didn't really understand that there was a difference between Catholic and Orthodox, so the only problem in her mind was why I was so crazy as to drive to a distant Church when there was already a Greek Catholic Church in town.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2005, 05:41:01 PM by Paradosis »

Offline rosemarie

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Re: Handling Opposition
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2005, 02:47:55 PM »
My mother is completely flipped out about this whole thing and thinks I'm exchanging grace for legalism and earning my salvation. :-[
She's especially upset that now my sister is converting to Orthodoxy, as well, and all of her grandchildren will be growing up to "worship graven images," as she puts it.

I've learned to not bring it up but to always be ready to answer her questions, even when they're frased rudely.

Offline Tikhon29605

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Re: Handling Opposition
« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2005, 03:55:37 PM »
Some advice: Don't argue with your Mom or debate Orthodox theology, practice, or doctrine. Consider her rude remarks as an ascetic trial you are having to endure. Be patient, let her vent, be Christ-like and sometimes say nothing, (even when you know a perfect Bible verse to quote to silence her! LOL).  Simply go about your life and include her in your prayers. Whenever she criticizes the Church, make an offer for her to "come and see."

Offline Milliardo

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Re: Handling Opposition
« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2005, 06:05:31 PM »
Thank you for all the replies so far. See, last Sunday I went to Divine Liturgy at a church near us and have been learning about the Orthodox Church. I'm also constantly communicating with the assistant parish priest there. My wife isn't the least bit happy. She doesn't want to go there. She doesn't even know what the Divine Liturgy is. Her opposition is much more in the line of, why do you have to go to another church? than anything else. She really doesn't have much reason to begin with other than that.

Offline QuoVadis

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Re: Handling Opposition
« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2005, 08:13:27 PM »
Wow - it's nice (not nice, but you know what I mean) to see that I wasn't the only one who had / has opposition from family / friends on becoming Orthodox.  My story is somewhat similar to Paradosis (above).  I grew up in a Protestant background (even though my father is Russian Orthodox - we were only ever exposed to this Church at Easter and Christmas).  I always had a deep love for God, but it wasn't until I was 18 that I became a "born-again" Christian and got deeply involved in a Baptist Church where my friends went.  A few years after, I travelled all the way to the USA and attended a Bible College for two years - which, admittedly was a wonderful experience learning and studying the Word of God.  But all that to say, it also opened my eyes to realise that I didn't believe the Protestant Church was doing things the way the Apostles did things.  So I started looking into the Orthodox Church (seeing I had some exposure to it and also a love for it when growing up).

When I arrived home from the USA after graduation, I arrived home under not the best circumstances.  I had no money, no job, no health - my health had failed me drastically ... so I was at the end of my ropes.  It caused me to re-evaluate my life and look at what's really important.  And when I realised how things were, it drew me into the Orthodox Church, the only place I found any real stability ... having a sure foundation on Christ Jesus.

So, to cut another long story short - I became Orthodox much to my family and friends sadness.  They didn't understand.  Even though I'm 28 and old enough to make my own decisions, my parents strongly disagreed with my decision to become Orthodox probably due to their lack of understanding of the Church, and anything to do with Christianity, somewhat.  My parents believed that my aunty and cousin ... perhaps even the priest ... had talked me into the decision.  It caused many disagreements and hurt between myself and my family.  My friends didn't understand.  Most of all - the pastor of the Baptist church I used to attend (who was actually once Greek Orthodox and converted to become a Baptist minister) was upset about me!  But ... I just strove on ... I knew what I knew was the truth ... Jesus Christ - this was His church ...

It has now been 3 years since I have converted.  I don't speak Russian, so don't understand the Liturgy unless I follow in my prayer book.  I don't have any complaints about this because I prefer the services in Slavonic.  All that to say - it has impressed my family and friends because they can see I'm going to church out of my own free will and that it's my hearts desire.  No one is "making me go".

I kept my Christianity to myself to not "stir the pot" amongst my immediate family.  But, perhaps it has helped because only recently - the week of Easter - my Mum had been talking to her brothers and sisters about my conversion to Orthodoxy, and they were asking questions.  She then came back to ask me questions - which was the first time she was geniune in her interest.  That touched my heart.

My close friends have also seen that I am still Christian, even though I attend a different church to what they do.  They can see I'm still the same person, and they even went so far to say "you have my blessing, if that's what you want to do" - which helped me as well.

My advice:  keep quiet, don't speak about things unnecessarily ... but if you're a Christian, your love for the Lord Jesus will shine through anyway.  And people will see, regardless of what Church you attend that you're still the same person.

I don't look back on my decision with regret.  I only wish that I had been an Orthodox sooner - but then, I don't regret that either because I wouldn't have had the experiences along the path that I have had to make me the person that I am today.

Sorry for rambling on ...but I hope this helps you.  Don't despair.  Most of all, trust God, and He will keep you strong though it all ... because He did for me :-)

"Without sorrows there is no salvation. On the other hand, the Kingdom of God awaits those who have patiently endured. And all the glory of the world is nothing in comparison." - St Seraphim of Sarov

Offline scooter

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Re: Handling Opposition
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2005, 11:02:17 PM »
I go from being energized to defeated, often within the same day.  I have always had a love for philosophy and the early Church Fathers.  Life events put me into the presence of an Orthodox where I work at the time.  It was as if all my questions had been answered and my search was over.  And that literally happened within two minutes of the starting conversation.  That was 2003.  I would like to say that my wife and I have been Baptised into the Church.  I would like to say my family is at least content with this decision.  I would like to say I have always handled the last two years with mercy, love, patience, good temperment and understanding.

Her first exposure to Orthodoxy was at a friend's house who was attempting to start an OCA (Amercian Orthodox) church where we live.  Needless to say, a born and raised evangelical Southern Baptist that she is, was frightened out of her wits- having never seen anything like that before.  And my wife is the sort of person who judges forever and ever amen on first impressions.  Arguments went back and forth over late 2003.  Around the begining of 2004, my friend and I were talking and I realized that I was not approaching things in a very merciful manner.  I really held off on any Church discussions in the house and that worked for a while- at least making for a peacful household!  In Spring 2004, at my parents house, the subject of church and how the marriage is going came up to my wife from my mother while I was downstairs.  I don't blame my wife for what happened- she was boxed into a corner by my mom and responded as best she could and then she fed off of the energy from mom and dad..  That was one of the most difficult nights I have ever gone through.  My mother, my father and my wife all turned on me.  I was called brainwashed, a cult fanatic, a satanist, a devil worshipper- you name it.  All because of Orthodoxy.  I was threatened with divorce.  I was told I was destoying my family and on and on... 

A new Father came to the local ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Oustide Russia) church after the previous one was asked to leave.  My friend who was attempting to start the OCA was ordered by his Father the timing was not right on this idea and was advised to seek out the local Russian Church.  That's how I found it.  I have been going sporadically since Nativity Fast.  My wife knows I go and there is not much we say about it.  I do tell her the services are beautiful and the people are nice- and it is neat to hear the Russian language spoken from time to time.  I also continue to attend the Baptist Church she grew up in.

This church is about 30 min from where we live.  She has come up to me recently seeking to find a new church to go to.  This was not 30 minutes after I was describing to her the Pascha Service.  It was then she told me should would never go to the Orthodox Church.  She said she would go to any other church and rattled off a few, but no to the Orthodox Church.  She reminded me she was not raised "that way".  Neither was I.  She said she did not trust the Orthodox Church and she was waiting for the day for them to convert me and split our marriage.  Father O. has instructed me that the Church is not worth my marriage- as marriage is a Sacrament.  That I am to take as much of the Orthodox Church as I can.  I have managed the last year with much more mercy and patience than the previous one.  I have been instructed by the Father to do so for part of that time, and by my friend the rest.  I long for the day for my wife and I to be come into the Church.

I have not spoken with my parents about the Orthodox Church in over a year.  During the "Easter" holidays, I found out my cousin is going through the same delima I am, except his wife is much more open to Orthodoxy than mine.  Just my aunt and my mother- again...

My wife loves God and is a sweet person always putting others before herself.  She has an amazing care for children and animals.  I love   her very much.

Pray to God and the saints for my family.  I am sorry for writing such a long post, especially for my first one!  I figured this was as good a place as any to put this.  And writing it out has been quite helpful for me tonight.     

Offline Nigula Qian Zishi

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Re: Handling Opposition
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2005, 11:05:57 PM »
Lord have Mercy! You have my prayers Scooter. You may wish to try having her read some very elementary books on Orthodoxy as an introduction to it by ex-Protestants who would know her fears.

Offline cizinec

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Re: Handling Opposition
« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2005, 08:16:24 PM »
I can't complain about mine as much as I used to.

My folks are still really irritated, but they have a choice:  play with their grandkids or ostricize their son.  Mine worked out in time.

Scooter, prayers.
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Offline sin_vladimirov

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Re: Handling Opposition
« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2005, 08:47:33 PM »
Brothers and sisters, I am also a cathecumen. And glory be to the God, I am only in my family and among my friends that is not an orthodox. As far as problems with the familiy go, I can not bear witness, but it is always a thing of a devil to hit you where it hurts the most. Today it is family, tommorrow is something else. In doing our Fathers will and following our Lord through the Holy Spirit, only thing that we can do, is love them more and pray for them more. The peaceful days are over once a soul finds Orthodoxy and everything implied under that word.
It is a war with all visible and invisible that we chose to fight, by help and mercy of the Most Holy Trinity, and loving example and guide from all the Saints and Angels. It is what we are here to do. Fight for the salvation of our souls and souls of our friends and enemies. Do not be afraid of anything ever, but of God for it is a waste to disregard His love.

And there now abideth faith, hope and love, these there things; but the greatest of these is love.

Peace from the Lord.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2005, 08:48:00 PM by sin_vladimirov »
Lord have mercy.

Offline coptic orthodox boy

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Re: Handling Opposition
« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2005, 09:04:19 PM »
Personally, I feel my parents were happy that I left the Catholic church.  Being an only son, and my last name being quite uncommon (Luehrsen, coming from German, "son of teacher"), if I ever considered the priesthood, I at least have a chance to get married.  Though, I highly doubt I'll ever be a priest.  Though, I DO CONSIDER GETTING MARRIED!   :-*

Offline scooter

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Re: Handling Opposition
« Reply #12 on: May 30, 2005, 12:31:50 AM »
Thanks for the prayers, everyone.  Ya'll will be in mine as well.

In many ways, I draw comfort from the fact I am not the only one going through obstacles.  It is nice to know you are not alone.  I pray for the Lord to have Mercy on us all; our families and our friends.

Offline Augustine

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Re: Handling Opposition
« Reply #13 on: May 30, 2005, 08:50:02 AM »
For those who are becoming Orthodox and who are married to wary spouses, I offer the following advice...


For right and wrong, your life is going to be identified with Orthodoxy. Not the Priest, nor the great Saints of the Church who were truly faithful, even unto death...but you. So like a pregnant woman who can say she's "eating for two", you're "living for two". So struggle to be faithful, not just for yourself, but for your spouse. It's frustrating and often unfair (that your own failings be used as a way to malign the Church), but that's just how it is.

Besides, it's what you ought to be doing anyway (struggling with tears) - this just gives you added insentive.

P.S. - same goes for parents in regard to their children.  Don't expect them to be faithful, when you're not.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2005, 08:51:25 AM by Augustine »

Offline beewolf

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Re: Handling Opposition
« Reply #14 on: June 10, 2005, 07:40:41 PM »
Well this morning I tacitly asked my wife which wall I could have to place ikons on. She wasn't very pleased, i explained ikons to her as much as my ignorance and her suspicion would allow. I said I only wanted Christos Pantokrator, Theotokos, and St. Seraphim of Sarov. Just one corner of the house pleeeease? I am sure that i will find somewhere for them. I know that this is probably not much of an issue for those who endure real opposition. I think my family believe i have become 'religious' in a negative sense, ie meaning 'superstitious', or perhaps i have finally gone over the edge - really I am just coming to the place i have been heading years. A lot of my old friends look astonished when i tell them i am converting to Orthodoxy.
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Offline idontlikenames

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Re: Handling Opposition
« Reply #15 on: June 10, 2005, 08:32:20 PM »
Being an only son, and my last name being quite uncommon (Luehrsen, coming from German, "son of teacher"), if I ever considered the priesthood, I at least have a chance to get married.  Though, I highly doubt I'll ever be a priest.  Though, I DO CONSIDER GETTING MARRIED!  ÃƒÆ’‚ :-*

....are you saying that girls only want to marry guys with cool last names?....What about Carroll? that cool enough?......I've often thought of becoming a priest just so that I can get married......(i.e. because no woman wants to marry an un-educated poor man....i.e. the Church would help pay for my schooling, something which I otherwise could not recieve)...but I chase that thought almost immediately

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Offline Jennifer

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Re: Handling Opposition
« Reply #16 on: June 21, 2005, 01:15:08 AM »
I'm revisiting this thread because I think it's an important topic.  Opposition is something that, unfortunately, we should expect.  If we're lucky most people will be supportive but some people will take our conversion as a personal attack on them. 

This is on my mind because I announced my conversion on an ecumenical board I used to visit.  I made a little joke about renouncing my former delusions and all heck broke loose.  I should have thought about it before I posted so I'm sure it's my fault.  But these people spent all day long debating my motives and being offended at my Orthodox triumphantism, etc.  So far, they've filled 8 pages.  Someone even started a new thread.  Nobody bothered to ask me what I meant.  Because in truth, it wasn't about me.  It was all about them. 

The important lesson to be learned here is that opposition is usually not about the convert.  It's about the other person and their issues. 

Offline aurelia

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Re: Handling Opposition
« Reply #17 on: June 24, 2005, 03:02:52 PM »
The important lesson to be learned here is that opposition is usually not about the convert.ÂÂ  It's about the other person and their issues.ÂÂ  

I'm thinking you are right...thinking about the opposition from my husband, and his (what words to use..) baseless interpretation of my reasons.  *sigh* but there isnt much you can do, either cave and give up, or keep on keeping on.