Jesus Christ!

At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
- Philippians 2:1-11
Why do people use the name of the Saviour as an expletive? And why do they think it acceptable to do this, particularly in conversation with Christians?

The Saviour's name is held in such high regard among Christians that many terms used by us to refer to Him stem precisely from not wishing to utter the name of Jesus casually. So we say things like "the Lord", "Our Lord", "Christ", "the Saviour", and such like, all out of reverence for the Holy Name. Indeed, in the Western tradition, there is a holy day in the Church calendar set aside for honouring The Most Holy Name of Jesus, and indeed, the people bow their heads during services when it is uttered in prayers. So when we hear this holy name being cheapened, used commonly and sacrilegously, it is offensive in the extreme, and I wince every time I hear somebody exclaim 'Jesus!' as an expression of surprise, frustration, or anger.

Then there are the variants. "Jesus H. Christ" is bad enough a distortion but the first time I heard somebody say 'Jesus f***king Christ!', my mouth fell open in disbelief.

Why do people do it?

I understand that most people who do this may not be Christians, but quite aside from the question of whether they believe in the Saviour and have a personal reverence for his holy name, there is the simple matter of basic good manners. Since when is it socially acceptable to take something that is sacred and revered in somebody else's religion and degrade it in conversation with that person? It simply shows contempt for the sensibilities of others. Surely well-bred people, even if they do not believe in God, have some respect for others.

Please tell me I haven't got that wrong as well.

2 responses:

Christopher said...

When I was in Brazil a common expletive/exclamatory was "Ave Maria!" which at first irked me, till I realised I could turn the whole situation around and reply "Gratia Plena, Dominus Tecum." Got some funny looks, but I found it amusing.

To believe there is any real thought in the exclamation of Our Lord's name at any slightly (or massively) irritating event would be to assume a fantastically rapid thought process in the mind of the person speaking those words. In reality the expletive use of "Jesus" is something which is firmly fixed in our culture. I remember, "Jesus" was seen as less offensive than "F**k" and even "Bloody Hell". As I developed I became more annoyed with the use of "Jesus" and increasingly "pissed off" with the use of "Oh My God!" which seems to have been the buzz-phrase of the 2000s.

"Gee-wizz" is an avoidance of "Jesus".
"By Jove!" is an avoidance of "Oh my God!"...though I rather enjoy the archaic feel of "By Jove!".

Michael Astley said...

Thank you, Christopher, and welcome. :-)

Thank you particularly for sharing your experiences elsewhere. I imagine that I would feel the same way were those expressions commonly heard in a culture of which I were part. I suppose it's a little like the Irish "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!" of that element of my family background, which makes me smile when I hear it but which I can never bring myself to say, even when taking off the accent.

As it happens, "Bloody hell" is not something that offends me. I'm really not all that bothered by what large quarters of respectable society calls "bad language": much of that is nothing more than inherited Norman snobbery at the use of Anglo-Saxon words in any case. No, my problem is quite limited to the profaning of holy things, and I don't think it is enough to say that people simply don't think about it because they ought to in the same way that they would were it another religion's holy figures, (whose names I have never heard used in such a fashion - indeed, people tread on eggshells in order to avoid giving offence in those instances).

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