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My Take: No pressure, Mr. President
Author Eric Metaxas speaks alongside President Barack Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington in February.
December 10th, 2012
05:00 AM ET

My Take: No pressure, Mr. President

Editor's Note: Eric Metaxas is the author of "No Pressure, Mr. President! The Power Of True Belief In A Time Of Crisis: The National Prayer Breakfast Speech."

By Eric Metaxas, Special to CNN

(CNN)–Imagine that the president of the United States had to sit and listen to you for 30 minutes in a public setting. Imagine that he couldn't escape and had to endure whatever you said. If you disagreed with him politically, would you try to embarrass him? What would you say?

Well, this actually happened to me. A year ago I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, an event attended by the president, first lady, vice president, and 3,500 other dignitaries. No one was more shocked at the invitation than I. Previous speakers include Mother Teresa, Tony Blair and Bono. No pressure.

By the way, I disagree with the president in some important ways. But as a Christian, God commands me to love those with whom I disagree, to treat them with civility and respect, as creatures made in God's image. That's a command, not a request or a suggestion. Again, no pressure.

In my speech I spoke about my heroes, William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Wilberforce's faith led him to fight for the Africans being enslaved by the British; Bonhoeffer's faith led him to fight for the Jews being persecuted by the Nazis. I used them as examples of people who passionately lived out their faith by standing up for their fellow human beings when most around them merely gave it lip service.

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I also joked around a lot, because as any of my friends will tell you, one of the ways I show love is by joking and teasing people.  Who said prayer breakfasts had to be boring?  At one point I said that George W. Bush had read my Bonhoeffer book, and then I glanced at President Obama and said "No pressure."  I'm glad he laughed!

Later in my speech, I talked specifically about the idea of loving our enemies. I said this was the test of real faith. Speaking to my fellow pro-lifers, I said that those of us who believe the unborn to be human beings must love those on the other side of that issue. I also said that those of us with a traditionally biblical view of sexuality are sometimes demonized as bigots, but we must love even those who call us bigots. I cited Wilberforce and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as two men who took seriously God's command to love their enemies in the midst of the most serious political battles of their day.  They honored God in how they fought, and he honored them.

At the end of the breakfast the president told me he would read my book on Bonhoeffer, and Vice President Biden took my picture with the president. No kidding. It was an extraordinary day and I'm not telling the half of it.

President Barack Obama holds up a book given to him by author Eric Metaxas

But the reason I'm writing now is that during the past election I was disappointed to see the president's campaign utterly abandoning these ideals of treating your opponents as you yourself would wish to be treated. Good people with principled and profound convictions about when life begins were cynically demonized as "enemies of women."  Americans who had worked hard to build businesses, and who had given millions to charity and to the government, were denounced as fat-cats who weren't "paying their fair share" and whose wealth was ill-gotten gain.

These scorched-earth tactics were not presidential, much less Christian, and because the president openly professes a Christian faith, I feel I must speak about this.

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Of course many will dismiss campaign hardball rhetoric as "what works." This is to miss the point. What we say matters deeply, and how we say it matters deeply.  All of it has serious long-term consequences.  For all of us.

For one thing, our children are watching and listening. We tell them it's less important who wins or loses than how we play the game. Is there no truth to this at all? Do we not see that this behavior erodes faith in the very political process and in democracy itself? Do we not see that by doing this we encourage our opponents to do the same - and worse - the next time around?  Shouldn't we care about that?

Any victory won in an ugly way is somehow a tainted victory. In this case, the president has "won" a deeply divided nation, one that he - alas - has had a hand in dividing. Now what?

If he is to succeed in the tremendous challenges that lay ahead, he must repent of these tactics and must make amends with his opponents, if it's not too late.  Or else he will face gridlock and more gridlock.  He also must show the door to those who cynically encouraged this "winning is the only thing" behavior.

His legacy and America's future depend upon it. Many will be praying for him.

No pressure.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Eric Metaxas.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Barack Obama • Belief • Christianity • Church and state • My Take • Politics

soundoff (2,208 Responses)
  1. Gary

    I'm not a very religious person but I've noticed an unprecidented level of attacks on religion over the last several years. Although many disagree with the beliefs of certain religions, all should agree that religion only means to bring civility to an otherwise uncivilized world. Religion seeks peaceful resolutions to our problems. So if society retaliates against religion and rebuffs its time-tested teachings, it seems to me that a more uncivilized path to resolving differences is prefered by the masses. God help us.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • April

      "Religion seeks peaceful resolutions to our problems." I call Bull$#%+ on this ridiculous statement... Have you ever paid attention in any of your history classes? Like, seriously?

      December 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • sam

      Eh...why do I have a feeling these 'attacks' on religion are actually situations where certain religious groups just didn't get their way?

      December 10, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Guy

      Define your concept of religion. Is it broad, inclusive of all religions present and past, or narrow, just what god/cult you may believe in?

      December 10, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Gary, Sounds to me that you are a very religious person. Given the bloody history of most religions why do you think they seek peaceful solutions. I can't think of any, can you provide examples?

      December 10, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • burbanktj

      "Religion seeks peaceful resolutions to our problems" I would agree with you if we could just completely disregard history.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
  2. nvmature

    After reading this self-important and better-than-thou article, I certainly won't insult my intelligence by reading any book by Eric Metaxus.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  3. April

    I can't believe CNN would even bother printing this drivel. Once one gets past him overly aggrandizing his own worldviews, the "article" ::coughADcough:: quite honestly reads as a shameless self-promotion of Metaxas' own books. Lame.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  4. Shelly

    So why are you writing this op-ed about the POTUS instead of Mitt Romney. Who was more disrespectful? The GOP toward Obama or the Dems toward Romney. You're just another partisan religious hypocrite.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  5. Pablo

    I have a major problem that this guy completely fails to mention the mud-slinging on both sides and seems to imply that the Obama campaign is the only side which engaged in negative campaign rhetoric. In my opinion, he loses credibility on these grounds and I get the feeling that, even though it would be every bit as warranted, he wouldn't have printed this article had Romney won. In fact, I think it is the social conservativism which was so pervasive in the earlier stages of Romney's campaign as well as the Republican primaries which lost Mr. Romney a lot of votes (including my own). I couldn't care less who somebody marries or what a woman does with her body, I just wanted to see more fiscal responsibility from Washington (we can argue all day about whether Romney would have actually been able to bring this or not, but the point is I was willing to give him a shot before he started pandering to the social extremists on the right). I find it comical that somebody who is taking a hard line on abortion and gay marriage like Mr. Metaxas is accusing the president of dividing the country. Hypocrisy, plain and simple.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  6. Lonnie Wild

    What pathetic, crappy thinking – go be a sore loser somewhere else – try preaching to your choir – the rest of us don't want to hear your BS

    December 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  7. nvmature

    Where does CNN get these people who so value their opinion that it must be forced upon the rest of us. This guy reads like some self-anointed version of William Bennett. If this writer can't acknowledge the many wrongs of Romney and the Republican Party, he certainly has no solid footing with this article. He should fairness in his op-ed. No pressure.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  8. M

    So a president pledged to work across the aisle. He begins to do that. Every attempt he makes is either ignored or twisted to use against him. Worse still, the opposition organizes to actively work against any policy proposals from the president because they believe it is a winning strategy to get their own representative into the White House in 2012.

    At what point in that betrayal does it finally become ok for the president to say, "%#$@ you all. I won't ask for your opinion anymore."?

    I get tired of reading this kinds of articles from the right. You want compassion, understanding, and cooperation on the hill? Then be a part of the change that you want. For goodness sake some of your religious heroes should have taught you that. For shame.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • maine liberal

      me thinks that Metexas needs to read his bible, prayer and repentenace are to be done in private,
      Perhaps Obama has already asked and received.

      6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  9. John

    As a Christian I found this article by Eric Metaxas truly offensive. You disrespect the President, but what about every other politician on the planet? What about Flip-Flop Mormon Romney? I'm happy the President won, and he won with honor.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Pat in IL

      I agree. This "opinion" was nothing but a self- serving right wing agenda piece. The fact that he emphasized that he is Christian while spewing this sarcasm and down-putting is more than just offensive.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  10. Buddy

    People like you and Billys brat are what gives Born again Christians a bad name...

    December 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  11. gtx333

    Dear Lord, please protect me from your followers.AMEN

    December 10, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  12. J G

    Another deluded soul allowed to preach on CNN.

    And I'm a Republican.

    It's time for the end of religion.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • niknak

      There are very few like you JG.
      I work with fundie republicans, and they will eat this story up. It is right in their worldview.
      The republican party of today has morphed into a facist regime. The Bob Doles are not welcome anymore.
      Heck, Raygun would be run out as a RIno.
      And it is all wound up with creepy fundamentalist xtianity.
      Very sick, and very dangerous.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  13. MTP

    What a fair and balanced editorial. Because, you know, Obama was the only one of the two to abandon the ideal of treating your opponents as you yourself would wish to be treated.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  14. John

    I can't believe I wasted my time reading this article. I won't make the same mistake by reading an Eric Metaxas book.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  15. maine liberal

    Mr Metexas its none of your business Prayer and repentance are to be done in private

    And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

    do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, no pressure

    December 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  16. jay

    Just so I understand: Without a "command," you would not be able to "love those with whom I disagree, to treat them with civility and respect"??? Laughable!!!

    December 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • sam

      I'm not sure he even realizes it came out that way...

      December 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • jay

      Actually, I'm quite confident that he knows exactly that it would come out that way.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • sam

      True, he didn't seem to mind shooting himself in the foot plenty of other ways.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • jay

      Agreed

      December 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  17. Sean

    Outstanding article, Eric! Thanks for sharing–I agree with you 100%. Looking forward to your Bonhoeffer tour!

    December 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  18. History Bear

    And- what about his opponents making amends to him. Never has any president of the US been vilified, disrespected and belittles as much as this one. I'm not an obama supporter, but I don't dislike him for his color or religion. His opponents seem to. You never mention the right of center crowd who actually hate him. You are as much of a hypocrite as any of your fellow travelers. Practice what you preach before you attempt to tell the rest of us and the President what to do.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • bob aussie

      good point. I didn't vote for Obama, but I can't tell you all the emails that are forwarded to me by "christian" believers who want me to believe Obama is the anti-Christ and is the cause of the beginning of the end of the world. Armageddon is just around the corner if you believe these putzes. I'm not a religious person, but I can't believe that being Christian doesn't require rational thought and overwhelming belief that Christ is the Son of God for ALL mankind, not just those who believe the way you do.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • niknak

      Then I would think they would be happy Obama won Bobster.
      It is my understanding that the fundies want the end to come so they can assend unto heaven while the unclean get burned alive.
      So is Obama winning brings the end, then they should welcome that.
      Oh, I forgot, they are still so racists that they can't even begin to get past the part that O is half black.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  19. bigdaddy

    Religion and Politics should not be subjects for people to discuss in the same way. Everyone has their own personal relationship God or whom ever or whatever choose to worship

    December 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Akira

      Religion doesn't belong in our laws. Period.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • niknak

      No, not everyone has a relationship to god.
      I for one don't, and never did.
      Can't have a relationship with something that does not exist, unless you are insane.
      Keep religion out of our politics lest we end up like one of those islamic countries that are falling apart.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  20. LinCA

    From the article, "Good people with principled and profound convictions about when life begins were cynically demonized as "enemies of women.""
    That is a massive and complete failure to understand, or intentional effort to distort the issue. The issue is not the views and convictions these people hold, but their attempts to force others to live by them. Anyone who doesn't like contraception or abortions is free not to use them. Attempt to deny them to others, especially based on some ancient text and unfounded beliefs, is bigotry.

    Not everyone subscribes to the same delusions as believers do, or believes in the same imaginary friend. Forcing those delusions on women makes anyone an enemy of them. Distorting the issue and trying to shift the blame to the President is part of the same bigotry.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • imABeliever

      wait a minute, laws are by definition there to "force" others to live by certain rules. If you can't have any laws that force somebody's views on someone else, then you can have no laws, period.

      For example, by having a law against slavery, you are forcing your view on the would-be slave owner that it is immoral to own and enslave another human being. So, in your view, that would be "hateful" towards the slave owner wannabe, and therefore we shouldn't have the anti-slavery laws.

      Soceity must enforce laws that prevent the murder of an innocent human being, even if there are some in society who don't view it as an act of murder.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • imABeliever

      "Anyone who doesn't like contraception or abortions is free not to use them"

      That's like saying if you don't like slavery, then just don't own one.

      No, no, no. If abortion is murder, then society must outlaw it and condemn it as morally repugnant.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      LinCA,

      The opening up of "Pandora's Box" will become a gravitational gateway toward all mannerisms of 'amoral' subjectivities even as well once viewed immoral civilities left to be awkwardly opened upon the leveraging masses whose mobs want freedoms of all manners of pleated civilities abundances. Lines once drawn are being erased and made redrawn nowadays to comfort the unneeded acts and willful actions of wanton socialisms surroundings. Opening up Pandora's Box is a risky endeavor in our trying times of leavened civil orientations.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @imABeliever, Saying that if it's murder we must outlaw it just throws the whole question onto the definition of murder, which doesn't get us any further along. What you need to ask is if it increases human suffering (or all suffering, if you care about other sentient beings). This will be answered differently is you think that there's a god who can't handle embryonic and fetal losses (which happen thousands of times a day) than if you think there's a more competent god or no god.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • imABeliever

      "Attempt to deny them to others, especially based on some ancient text and unfounded beliefs, is bigotry."

      So, since there is a "thou shalt not steal" in the Bible, should we strike all the anti-theft laws from the books? Oh my goodness, whoever the lawmaker was that put that law in there *might* have acted on the basis of some "ancient text"... we've got to get rid of those anti-theft laws since they are unfounded beliefs and bigoted!!

      December 10, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Akira

      Legislating belief into law is wrong, no matter which way you cut it...was it "all men are created equal (except for those we want to own because they're black?)"
      No.
      Civil, equal rights for all isn't what that book espouces...but it IS what America stands for.
      Keep religion out of our laws.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • sam

      Look what you guys have done now – you've got Believer all wound up so tight that he/she is more incoherent than usual.

      Believer, you go have a sit and a cup of tea, and listen to those Monkees albums you so treasure. You'll feel better in a bit.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.