If Jesus matters to you then hearing someone swear using his name can feel like a personal attack. Some people use ‘Jesus’ only as a swear word and there is the story of the child who asked why people were then worshipping a swear word – I guess it might be apocryphal.
Of course swearing is an interesting subject in itself and can be a huge relief in channelling aggression without physical violence. It is the way that pent up feelings can be expressed. Usually we swear using body parts so looking at this from a psychoanalytic view this is about projecting out the fear of an attack on the vulnerable parts of one’s self. In other words the fear forces a fight mode and the projection expels the tension of the conflict. The term ‘Jesus wept’ as a swear phrase must then have a connection with a vulnerable deeply sad part within the person which has to be pushed out in an angry way otherwise the vulnerability might become overwhelming. Compassion is not something that can be borne at that point what is needed is the energy that anger brings.
Of course for those of us who believe in a loving God and a compassionate Christ the experience is that Jesus is alongside us both in our rage and our grief and weeps with us at the sadness that we are keeping at bay.
Ironically after writing this and going out I passed two young men – just as I passed them one was talking about some event and loudly commenting on it said ‘Jesus Christ’ with some venom. It led me to think about Jesus as an embodiment of surrender and vulnerability. This is how Eckhart Tolle describes the crucified Jesus Christ on the cross and for some people it must again be the projection of that vulnerable and defeated part of themselves which has to be expelled at all costs especially if you are the tiniest bit anxious about that aspect of your psyche. And of course again for those of us who find Jesus Christ as a redeemer it is this aspect of his life on earth and the amazing breakthrough into the resurrection that is an empowering belief – an aid in times of weakness and defeat. By calling on Jesus Christ we aim to limit our separation from God and to grow ever closer to the source of being.
So what for one is a swear word for another is the saviour – funny old world.