Jump to content

Getting Pulled Into Orthodox Christianity... Help!


cookiedough
 Share

Recommended Posts

First of all, I've been lurking here for the past month and you guys are awesome. I'm hoping someone out there, especially someone familiar with Eastern Orthodoxy, can help restore my sanity.

 

For the past year, I've been in a serious relationship with a very, very devout Orthodox Christian. It's the best relationship I've ever had and we've been talking marriage. The only problem is I would have to convert to Christianity in order to get married in the Orthodox church, or else he'd lose his good standing and not be able to receive the Eucharist, etc.

 

 

For most of my life, I've actively loathed Christianity. I can definitely embrace striving for a Christ-like life (treating other people well, acting from a place of love, being generous, etc.), but the rest of it just feels like an elaborate fairytale to me. I actually have a lot of beliefs that are just as unprovable as anything in Christianity, mostly about pre-birth consciousness and reincarnation, but those are due to some significant experiences I had when I was very young... and I tend to trust the things I perceive as experiences over what people in religious institutions tell me to blindly accept.

 

Mostly, I loathe the restrictions and rules given by organized religions, and unlike people who find comfort in that sort of structure, I feel deeply oppressed by it. I think there are many things about the world that we don't understand, but it annoys me when a religion claims exclusive rights over The Truth.

 

Throughout our relationship, I've felt like my boyfriend has been buttering me up for a conversion to Orthodoxy. Most of this is my fault, since I expressed a lot of enthusiasm in the beginning when I found out how different Orthodoxy is from the Protestantism I was familiar with. (For anyone not aware, Orthodox Christianity doesn't believe hell is a literal place, doesn't believe in salvation by faith alone, doesn't assume non-Christians suffer for eternity, and is generally more "introverted" with long traditions of meditation practices.) My boyfriend gave me tons of literature to read by the Desert Fathers and various saints, and some of it seemed quite palatable to me. I warned him that I don't think I could ever be Orthodox myself since I can't force myself to un-believe in reincarnation/preexistence. He's generally been very respectful about this, even though he obviously thinks I'm wrong. Even though he's never put any sort of ultimatum on me to convert, I just get the feeling that deep down, he's hoping I'll eventually "see the light" and come to Christ.

 

More recently, he's been bringing me to his church and having me talk to his spiritual Father. I feel like I'm getting so saturated with all their theology that I don't know up from down anymore. Both my boyfriend and his spiritual Father have been presenting Orthodoxy in a very rosy way -- giving me all the good bits first, I think, before going into the more difficult stuff, and presenting the Church as infallible because it's being led by the Holy Spirit. I've been told that my resistance to accepting Orthodoxy is natural because there are demonic forces trying to keep me away from the truth, and that they start "acting up" when people start considering Orthodoxy. (I've also been told that the experiences that led me to believe in reincarnation were also demonic in origin.)

 

I've been feeling really depressed and confused about everything lately. I have no desire to be religious. Previously, I was really happy with my spiritual life without integrating various traditions and rules. I feel like I'm being lured into becoming Orthodox by being told the experiences I've had that don't fit with the Church are invalid, and being shown all these great things about Christ, the great spirituality of the saints... I'm just so confused! I've been drowning in so many Orthodox books and writings that I've lost all perspective on everything I thought to be true.

 

I guess what I'd like to ask is if 1) anyone here de-converted from Orthodoxy, and if you could offer a more balanced view of its weaknesses/weird bits than I'm hearing from current Orthodox Christians, and 2) if there's any hope for this relationship working when only one person is Orthodox and the other is someone like me who will probably never convert.

 

I hate that religion has to drive love apart.

 

Any input at all would be deeply appreciated. I'm feeling so discombobulated!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the question is, would a best friend/spouse let religion destroy the relationship?

 

Seems like it's a "my way or the highway" kind of a deal.

 

My daughter got in that situation and she folded. Now she is completely miserable playing the part of "a good christian wife".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Moderator

I dig a lot of things about Eastern Orthodoxy, but it's still another Christian cult. Would he expect you to continue to attend services? Frankie Schaeffer still attends, though I can't believe that he believes anything supernatural. I've heard that you have to do a lot to prove yourself before you can become a member--might be difficult to fake.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Valk0010

If you could somehow convinced yourself the evidence proofs the validity of Christianity go for it. But if you can't you will never be happy in that environment.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh man, I love you all so much. You have no idea. This is like oxygen to me after a few months of suffocating...

 

I think the question is, would a best friend/spouse let religion destroy the relationship?

 

Seems like it's a "my way or the highway" kind of a deal.

 

Yeah, that's the bummer part. To his credit, my boyfriend had no idea an interfaith marriage wouldn't be allowed in his church until just recently. He'd assumed that we could get married and he could keep his good standing and I could keep doing whatever I wanted. The pressure to convert has come more recently, when his spiritual father told us the rules regarding Orthodox marrying non-Christians. My boyfriend was surprised and devastated when he heard the bad news about this.

 

He's told me that if he can't marry me, he doesn't want to marry anyone. So we're sort of in limbo now where I'm learning about Orthodoxy and we're waiting to see what happens. He told me that he's not worried about it because he trusts God will make everything turn out how it's supposed to.

 

We were friends for a long time before we ever started dating, and didn't move beyond that because we assumed religion would be an issue. At the time, I thought Orthodox Christianity was basically Southern Baptism with an Amish dress code (I have no idea why), and he assumed he would scare me away if he started throwing religious stuff at me. We decided to start dating after discussing our respective beliefs and realizing that, even though we don't agree on the specifics, our values and goals are pretty much the same.

 

But now that more time has passed, our differences are becoming more obvious. This is literally the only conflict we have between us, which makes it suck even more.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Valk0010

Hey if he gets really antsy about this, tell him, that the problem is with him. He should decide, his faith or you. Why unless you find a good reason more then just pleasing him, to join, should he pressure you for his own hangups.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is gonna sound a little sleezy but is there anyway you can "pretend" to become an orthodox christian then stop going to church, i have no idea of OC works but what if you tried to convince him to get married in a baptist church? They will marry anyone.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I dig a lot of things about Eastern Orthodoxy, but it's still another Christian cult. Would he expect you to continue to attend services? Frankie Schaeffer still attends, though I can't believe that he believes anything supernatural. I've heard that you have to do a lot to prove yourself before you can become a member--might be difficult to fake.

 

Yeah, I think Eastern Orthodoxy is definitely the most palatable out of all the forms of Christianity I've ever encountered. Part of my challenge has been de-programming myself from the Christianity I was exposed to growing up (mostly creationists fundies in my family) and seeing things through the more mystic perspective of Orthodoxy. Their Divine Liturgy is definitely beautiful, and many of the people I've met in that faith have been very, very kind and loving and overall wonderful. That alone has been a big testament to their religion, I think -- the fact that the people I've encountered there have been truly humble and generous. (Then again, Mormons have also ranked among the nicest people I've ever met, but their religion still seems bonkers to me...)

 

He wouldn't expect me to attend services if I didn't want to. He respects that I have my own brand of spirituality and that I don't feel comfortable in structured environments of worship (at least not Christian ones). The time I enjoy his church the most is when they're singing in Greek and I can't understand any of it. Then I can just appreciate the music and the incense. But I feel very uncomfortable praying to Jesus as God, for example... I don't feel any of it in my heart.

 

The catechumen (pre-conversion) phase is pretty demanding, you're right. You have to attend classes and learn tons of theology. I could probably sit through it, but not happily, and it would feel like the equivalent of learning Greek mythology or something -- maybe historically interesting but not something I actually believe as truth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Look up the Orthodox traditional story about the boy who died at age eleven, and his soul was taken straight to Hell for having done what boys his age will do naturally, shortly before his death. Ask yourself point-blank if you can stomach such a religion.

 

If it's about what I think it is, yeah, that's one of the things I just can't embrace about Orthodoxy. I'm already going along with my boyfriend's no-sex-before-marriage request because I know it's important to him, but their beliefs about sexuality, as well as homosexuality, are things I just can't get on board with.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey if he gets really antsy about this, tell him, that the problem is with him. He should decide, his faith or you. Why unless you find a good reason more then just pleasing him, to join, should he pressure you for his own hangups.

 

Part of the problem is he's SO convinced what he believes is true. He had some spiritual experiences when he was younger, after initially straying from the church, that confirmed to him in his mind that Orthodoxy is the one true religion. So from his perspective, he has no hangups; he's just following the most direct path to God. He is very respectful of letting other people believe what they want and not giving them a hard time about it, but at the end of the day, his perspective is 100% fixed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is gonna sound a little sleezy but is there anyway you can "pretend" to become an orthodox christian then stop going to church, i have no idea of OC works but what if you tried to convince him to get married in a baptist church? They will marry anyone.

 

Haha. I suppose it would be possible, but I think I would literally drive myself to the brink of insanity trying to do that. Orthodoxy requires a LOT of time spent at church, as well as a lot of rules to follow (for instance, you fast every Wednesday and Friday of your life, no sex on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday; 40 days of fasting and abstinence before Lent, as well as more fasting for numerous weeks throughout the year... etc.). I haven't even converted yet and I'm already feeling total despair having to learn about their theology.

 

I don't think it would work to get married in a Baptist church; if the marriage isn't done with special Orthodox customs, the Orthodox church doesn't recognize it as a valid marriage, and both people are considered to be living in sin. My boyfriend would still lose his good standing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Orthodox is pretty hardcore. You even have to kiss the priest's ring at the end of the service. I've met some Christians who joined the orthodox church because the baptist church wasn't hardcore enough for them. Plus with the beards they look too much like a person who's about to blow themself up.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is gonna sound a little sleezy but is there anyway you can "pretend" to become an orthodox christian then stop going to church, i have no idea of OC works but what if you tried to convince him to get married in a baptist church? They will marry anyone.

 

Haha. I suppose it would be possible, but I think I would literally drive myself to the brink of insanity trying to do that. Orthodoxy requires a LOT of time spent at church, as well as a lot of rules to follow (for instance, you fast every Wednesday and Friday of your life, no sex on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday; 40 days of fasting and abstinence before Lent, as well as more fasting for numerous weeks throughout the year... etc.). I haven't even converted yet and I'm already feeling total despair having to learn about their theology.

 

I don't think it would work to get married in a Baptist church; if the marriage isn't done with special Orthodox customs, the Orthodox church doesn't recognize it as a valid marriage, and both people are considered to be living in sin. My boyfriend would still lose his good standing.

 

What you need to do first is read How to argue and win everytime. It can be found here.

 

http://www.amazon.com/How-Argue-Win-Every-Time/dp/0312144776

 

Then you need to gain a very large understanding of christian theology, no christian orthodoxy but almost Calvinistic like christian theology. This will help you because it seems like OC is a lot of work, well one of the most core tenets of Christianity is the "god to man" system rather than the "man to god." That basically means God reaches out to man rather than man working to get to God, if you can show that work does not save you then you could potentially end his reasons to only marry in the OC. I am about to puke writing this but i think its your best bet. Dont try and disprove God to him but show him how the OC is unbiblical. A good place to start is to learn about the early christian church after the cannon is produced and look at the theological debates going on at the time, you will find that "working to God"(like in OC) is something that is usually considered heretical and un-christian like traditionally.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

http://www.amazon.com/What-Reformed-Theology-Understanding-Basics/dp/0801065593/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1342911828&sr=1-1&keywords=reformed+theology

 

Here is a good book to use to learn what im talking about, RC Sproul is a fair minded person but you also need to study why God is not real so you dont get pulled into Reformed theology yourself, but i think this will be a good weapon for you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Valk0010

Hey if he gets really antsy about this, tell him, that the problem is with him. He should decide, his faith or you. Why unless you find a good reason more then just pleasing him, to join, should he pressure you for his own hangups.

 

Part of the problem is he's SO convinced what he believes is true. He had some spiritual experiences when he was younger, after initially straying from the church, that confirmed to him in his mind that Orthodoxy is the one true religion. So from his perspective, he has no hangups; he's just following the most direct path to God. He is very respectful of letting other people believe what they want and not giving them a hard time about it, but at the end of the day, his perspective is 100% fixed.

Well honestly then its a case of, imho, you and your mental and spiritual well being or his. Because if you too, can't at least not come to some reasonable compromise (what he is asking of you isn't reasonable) then you two aren't going to work out.

 

He is more or less saying in a real passive way, convert to my religion or we can't have a relationship. Your not going to be happy faking something you honestly can't believe in. You just can't do it and be healthy. Your going to end up resenting him for it and things will be way worse.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

 

Seems like it's a "my way or the highway" kind of a deal.

 

He told me that he's not worried about it because he trusts God will make everything turn out how it's supposed to.

 

Your boyfriend has already decided

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Valk0010 is right. You'll eventually come to resent yourself in time and your relationship will get trashed.

 

There's no avoiding this if any relationship's success is contingent upon you becoming someone you're not.

 

This is the singlemost problem I have with religion -- when its superstitious, mythical, make-believe bullshit takes precedence over real, live human beings.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello Cookiedough, I appreciate what you've shared with us and empathize a lot. One of the first people to "witness" to me was Greek Orthodox, and I've hung around with a lot of Orthodox people, speak Greek, have Greek friends. I agree about the beauty of the liturgy and the richness of the tradition.

 

Obviously, only knowing what you've written, none of us can respond to anything but that. Your boyfriend sounds like a deep and good person - to use stereotypes about men, sounds like a "dad" rather than a "cad"! Still, with religion being so important to him, and his expecting you to come over to his religion and take the role of Greek Orthodox wife, I must agree with others that I see trouble ahead. A lot can change in a relationship after marriage. Before marriage, you are still both looking forward, and perhaps even concealing things (not necessarily out of a plan, but perhaps vaguely out of hope). After marriage, you will be expected to fit into a role. You'll be "marrying" your boyfriend's ethnicity, of which the religion is a big part along with a lot of other stuff. I won't go on speculating here but I definitely second what TexasOtaku and others have said.

 

Eastern Orthodoxy is very patriarchal, very ethno-centric, very male centered, the Greek even more than the Russian (even though there is the Orthodox Church in America, it comes out of the Russians). In many parishes, the priest is a wonderful man, and in many others, is someone bordering on being a crook in the sense that money transactions get intertwined with the religious stuff, and priests know how to use their status to their advantage. Since Eastern Orthodoxy is not immune to all the contradictions that falsify Christianity as a whole, I think you are facing a dangerous step if you are expected to become enmeshed in it when you have reason to believe it isn't even true.

 

The model that your boyfriend has in men of the Greek Orth. religion is a model of NEVER bending. The Greek man inherits the pride of Ελληνισμός from ancient times, through the centuries of resistance to the Turks, when the religion formed the core of that resistance, and on... If your boyfriend looks to priests for his inspiration and leadership as a man, that model is very kind and compassionate on many levels, but it presumes its own rightness. What will your boyfriend feel about himself as a man in the Greek diaspora if his wife doesn't go along? So it will be vital for him to have you "come over to our side," so to speak. If he loves you as you, as the person you are, as a moral end, not as a means, perhaps he can see things in a new way. If you love him enough that you are willing to become Greek without mental reservation, including the religion, then I foresee a wonderful community as a hope ahead of you, but could you accept that two and two equal five without mental reservation?

 

Many Greeks take their religion on faith very simply and aren't very "into it." Your boyfriend's being so serious about it seems to require you either to really believe or to shoulder a life of pretending. Does he have the kind of character that as time goes on, would become very controlling? It sounds as though not, from what you say.

 

In the ancient world, a woman would give up her family gods and take up the gods of her new husband's family. If you can think of your prospective future as an Orthodox Christian in that way, it may work, but again, it seems to me more that it would be pretending.

 

OK, whether or not what I've written is any use, welcome, Cookiedough, and stick around on here.

 

Υειa χaρά, F

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You'll regrrrrrreeeeettt iiittttttttt........

 

Is he worth putting on a charade for the rest of your existence? That's the million dollar question.

 

Don't put yourself in mental bondage. You're more valuable than that.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Super Moderator

Nobody gets "pulled into" a religion they don't believe. They go willingly, afraid to rock the boat or express an opinion that differs from the dominant person in the relationship.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh man, I love you all so much. You have no idea. This is like oxygen to me after a few months of suffocating...

 

I think the question is, would a best friend/spouse let religion destroy the relationship?

 

Seems like it's a "my way or the highway" kind of a deal.

 

Yeah, that's the bummer part. To his credit, my boyfriend had no idea an interfaith marriage wouldn't be allowed in his church until just recently. He'd assumed that we could get married and he could keep his good standing and I could keep doing whatever I wanted. The pressure to convert has come more recently, when his spiritual father told us the rules regarding Orthodox marrying non-Christians. My boyfriend was surprised and devastated when he heard the bad news about this.

 

And so, instead of him reassessing the idiot shit he believes, you're the one who has to change? Fuck that noise.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.