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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 • Politics

soundoff (2,208 Responses)
  1. TO

    What's really inconceivable is that a person like Mitt Romney, who belongs to a dubious cult that runs its ritual behind closed doors, a man that embraces the lowest of values and was deemed unfit for the presidency by his own party, had a shot at being the United States president out of spite. Because some people can't live with the "divisive" idea of social justice.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  2. Blame Bush

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

    Good. Now shut up and sit down.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  3. Kenman

    Wow editors, do you really think the disclaimer at the bottom of the article was necessary? After all, you ARE CNN, and the author is a Christian; everyone knows that you share NO opinions with them! And, obvously, neither does your usual readership.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Ben

      Christian? Doesn't seem to act like it. He didn't see the tactics of the Republicans?

      December 10, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Mike in NJ

      Kenman: Objectivity is when you do not take sides in an argument. Discernment is when you choose not to give invalid and/or illogical arguments a venue in which to state arguments that don't make sense or further a positive discourse.

      I believe CNN holds to these conventions, for the most part, more than many other news sources. And Christianity is not a criterion for journalism. So if you want Christianity, your nearest church is the proper venue. CNN would not be a valid place to promote Christian opinions, except as clearly segregated OPINIONS, and not to influence objective journalism.

      Thus ended the lesson.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  4. JD

    I can't seriously take into account the opinion of anyone who still believes in sky fairies.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • seriously

      I cant take anyone seriously who actually believes in the big bang theory

      December 10, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Blame Bush

      I agree.

      The author cherry-picked some of Obama's remarks and twisted then into standard GOP evango-fascist rhetoric.

      So what if he called the wealthy "fatcats" as that's just what they are....not to mention we've endured four years of the most vile, hate-filled emails authored by GOP operatives that have called Obama far worse things – that he's NOT guilty of. But it's all part of the GOP big lie campaign and the public noted that in the recent elections.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Mike in NJ

      seriously: there's actual evidence for one of those, and the inconsistent word of people who lived 2000 years ago as the only thing to trust for another. So good on ya, you go with that blind faith!!

      Now please give up all of the technological advances that science has provided for these last 2000 years, and live in the woods all by yourself, if you don't believe that science is more valid and useful than your imaginary friend in the sky. Have a great day!

      December 10, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Dave

      And I can't take into account anyone who posts such opinions without knowing that the father of the Big Bang Theory was a prominent Catholic Priest.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  5. Ernesto Otero Jr.

    How come the only people he villifies are democrats. I guess the republicans did not lie or played scorch earth tactics. I guess Mit Romney the would be president of 50% of americans was always honest, truthful and direct with the American Public. Whatever happened to his taxes. How come a guy who writes about William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and mentions Martin Luther King can write something so politically partisan and ended by asking the Democrat to repent. HOW ABOUT REPENT REPUBLICANS FOR ALL THE BIGOTRY, LIES AND DISTORTION THAT CONTINUES TO COME OUT OF YOU MOUTH!!!

    December 10, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • patsj

      Exactly. Clean up your own house before you tell me to clean up mine.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Guy

      Eye on the prize.
      Win at any cost.
      I am not a crook.
      Metaxas thinks things have changed, not bloody likely, look in your own house Eric.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Ben

      AMEN !!!

      December 10, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • YouMisunderstand

      He does not point at a specific party . He points towards the winning person of this years elections. Yes Obama is a democrat. He is asking that he stays true to his public christian proclamation. No reason to use your imagination and create conflict were its not. Read the article just as it is, no imagination needed.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  6. Jman

    Mr. Metaxes you are an opportunistic snake.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  7. Sailor101

    The dogma you are spouting is getting so old and over used. Come up with something new would you. Just because someone has an opinon that differs from yours it automatically classifies them as a bigot...come on REALLY? Each and every person has a right to have their own opinion no matter what side of the issue that opinion falls on, but when a person starts the name calling and mud slinging just because the other persons opion does not agree with yours....who is in the wrong then?

    December 10, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  8. Barbara

    I am disappointed that Mr. Metaxas would make such errors in his assessment of the campaign. Mr. Obama has never claimed that the "enemies of women" had anything to do with abortion. It was and still is about a woman's right to have and to make choices about her reproductive health. And the discussion about the wealthy paying a higher rate of tax isn't demonizing the hard working small business owner. He is talking about the bankers, hedge fund managers, money shufflers, etc who are making exorbitant incomes on the backs of the average American. Mr. Obama did not cause this great divide in ideology, Fox News did.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Blame Bush

      Barbara, thank you. The GOP and their evango-fascists dictators mostly certainly ARE waging a war on women which is born out in over a hundred anti-woman bills passing in red-state legislatures this past year.

      The author, like Rove, at al, cannot come to accept the whopping defeat they brought upon themselves by pandering to the evangelical version of the Taliban, and are now is a trick bag of their own making as Republicans now have to believe that everything they hear from Fox News is absolute truth. Otherwise they have to admit they have been totally controlled for the past twenty years. Conservatives like Eric would rather stay in their bubble than admit what fools they have been.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  9. lionlylamb

    Skarphace wrote on December 10, 2012 at 2:25 pm, “Trying to force legislation that would outlaw abortions in every single case, including conceptions via ra pe or inc est, or when the life or long-term health of the mother is at stake (ie. the 'Personhood Amendment'), is indeed what I would consider a 'war on women'. The choice to have or not to have an abortion should be between a woman, her doctor, her family, and other professionals (yes, even priests if she so determines), not up to a select few elected officials on capital hill who have never even met the woman and do not know her circu mstances.”

    Lionlylamb wrote to skarphace, “S e x is not only a physical embolism but is also an emotionalized pleasantry. In either stance one should yes consider before the "deed done" is made. Does a couple who embraces each other in the physical throngs of emotionalized pleasing do so without any planning involved? Are we all just wanting the pleasures of s e x to be had without planning for a child's birthing? If so, then aren't we found guilty of wanton s e x u a l pleasures despite said pleasures potential outcome?”

    Skarphace wrote on December 10, 2012 at 2:44 pm, “First, I disagree that people should only have 's e x', as you put it, with the intention of having a child. Second, the 'personhood amendment' goes way beyond unintentioned pregnancies. If your daughter got pregnant as the result of a ra pe, then you will probably be very glad that such an amendment probably will never be passed.”

    Lionlylamb replied to skarphace, “So then, you believe in wanton s e x u a l pleasures without the foreseeable consequences? Your standing upon r a p e principles or a mother's potential healthiness due a child possibly being conceived is noteworthy. Should then the governing bodies allow all s e x u a l activities no matter what? Is the shame for having s e x out of wedlock for pleasure's sake something to be overlooked and judgmentally weighed out-of-bounds due that everyone needs a little 'action'?”

    December 10, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  10. Justin

    I believe Jesus Christ would be for universal health care and food stamps for the meek.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  11. Jim Robertson

    I am well into my sixth decade, a political junkie, and I have not in my lifetime witnessed a U.S. presidential campaign that Jesus would approve of. Obama's was certainly no worse than Romney's - and Romney, or at least his supporters, tried to present him as a principled church leader. I'm afraid Mr. Metaxas let his political views rather than his theology fuel this one-sided call for "repentance."

    December 10, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Avdin

      I do not think that the author considers mormonism to be a christian denomination. His article is also directed at the leader with whom is aquanted and to whom he had already given advice which he felt was ignored. While he may not agree with the issues, it is not the issues he is so concerned about in this article. His concern is for leadership which disregards sound the sound advice which asked for and which it proclaims to adhere to. I believe that it is quite possible that Mr. Metaxas would have written a similar article about Romney if romney had asked him for his advice and had won the election.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  12. raforrester

    If he really wants to improve the political discourse, he should talk to the people who might actually listen to him, the people on his own side. It is easy to criticize the president on this, but that just sounds like political posturing, of the sore loser type. I don't see why the president should even listen. But if he takes the courageous position of calling his own people on their own excesses, then he could could make a difference to both sides.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  13. Whammybar

    You are blind in that you cannot see the freedom that you enjoy. Believe what you wish. Allow everyone else the same option. The President recognizes that fact. you don't.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Bishop Hairy Palms

      Well said.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  14. Culpepper

    I didn't elect my president to get down on his knees for some imaginary being in the sky. When this nation as a people can stop babbling over which Flavor of a God a president should follow (if at all) then maybe we can focus on getting some real progress done in fixing this country's problems. Prayer and repentance will fix nothing in government (has it ever ??????) working together for common goals and an end to multi-partianism will.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Rhubarb

      The idea that a President of the United States of America – a nation which was irrefutably grounded in Christian belief from the start – should not only believe in God but actually put the big words into ACTION, is criticized from the standpoint of your own bias of non-belief. You flippantly mention an "imaginary being in the sky", yet you talk about "fixing" government: A clear implication of the application of Moral Law, yet you deny the existence of the very Moral Law Giver whose Wisdom, Commandments and Precepts you seek to employ to fix the problems. Whether you realize it or not...if you think your position through, you'll conclude that repentance and by sheer association, prayer, are central to this "FIX".

      December 10, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  15. nvmature

    @POV The President tried to be the conciliatory one; to be the fair one; to be the compromiser; the grown-up in the room. All he got for 4 years is Republican obstructionism; a pledge to defeat him at all cost; an unwillingness to negotiate; claims of being being a foreigner; a socialist; an Islamist, etc. At some point, governing can mean force your opponents to the will of the people. Go see Lincoln, the movie.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  16. Brian K

    Why are you attacking the President when he has to endure being called all kinds of awful things? When top ranking republicans question his birth place and say more nasty things than Obama ever did, you just come after him.

    You still have a lot to learn. Loving your enemies is all well and good. But being overly critical of your enemy when your friends are worse is pathetic.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • pa

      Exactly! This is too much the "pot calling the kettle black" for me. The author assumes his way and his thoughts are the "right" ones, but he graciously says he will love those who don't agree. What hypocrisy!

      December 10, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Ben

      AMEN !! Mr. Metaxas is so bogus. He doesn't, and didn't, see the tactics of the Republicans? PLEASE !!

      December 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  17. Mark from Canada

    "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."

    It will be a great day when this kind of moronic "morality" is replaced with reasoned agostic athiesm. There is no God that commanded any such thing, the bible is a literary work written by people. We do not see pens floating in the air putting words to paper. I was born an athiest, learned to be agnostic, and I am a moral being who loves his family. Time to get real America, drop this religious tale from a gone-by-era. There's a much better future waiting for us that is based on reason and sanity. Religion is insanity.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • imABeliever

      actually, if atheism is true, then your thoughts and so-called reasonings are all just reducible to chemical reactions in your brain. You believe your views are true, not because they *really* are true, but because your brain has been conditioned in a certain way. therefore, any views coming out of your mouth are unreliable and untrustworthy, being the result of physical processes. So, why do you pretend as if your ideas are rational and actually correspond to something in the external world?

      December 10, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • imABeliever

      "There is no God that commanded any such thing"

      How do you possibly know that?

      December 10, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • John

      So you think that Christians believe the Bible has been written in heaven? We have ALWAYS known that the Scriptures are works of human authors, and that is what distinguishes them from Quran or the Book of Mormon.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Mark from Canada

      It is called reason into truth. I use science as one of the best cognitive and inductive tools that human beings have invented to query into reality. Truth by consilience away from the delusioned conceptions and deception of the human mind is the path that I have followed in my life. How do I know it is true? Well I can test and empirically confirm my findings until at such time I find doubt in my answers. It is insanity to believe in something that in no way can be queried – what a waste of time. I could spend my life praying to a bowl of spaghetti floating about in orbit about the sun, or even suggest that it exists in the universe. How could I possibly know if this is or is not true? What difference does it make? God is like a bowl of spaghetti in space, the concept of it makes no difference in my life other than the influence it has on the people who choose to believe that it has some effect on their actions. Once you understand that 1) the spaghetti in space is probable fiction, and 2) even if there is spaghetti in space, it is irrelevant in the big picture of things. Why waste our lives on the imaginary when there is such a beautiful world to be discovered and understood through reasoned inferential query into reality? It is a shameful act to dull your senses to an imaginary tale believing it to be important and influential in your lives. Even worse, to use that to influence politics or other world affairs as religion is so guilty of doing. Please stop polluting my planet and my rights with your religious insanity. Believe in imaginary things as adults is insanity and needs to be addressed.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Rhubarb

      "Believe in imaginary things as adults is insanity and needs to be addressed"

      Do you imagine life on other planets?
      Do you believe in this imaginary thing?
      Are you an adult?

      BAD NEWS: By your own defintion, you are INSANE.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  18. Bishop Hairy Palms

    The single accomplishment of the religious right in this country has been to convince millions of weak minded individuals that selfishness, greed, and hate for those who are less fortunate or those who are different are good, "Christian" values.

    This author's selective outrage about how so-called "Christians" have been portrayed would be amusing if it wasn't such a sad cliche at this point.

    I can think of very few groups of people who are less like Christ than Christians.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • imABeliever

      So, how do you explain all the christian charities that are on the scene of every natural disaster, such as red cross, operation blessing, etc?

      the bible teaches that individuals, not gov't, are to care for the poor.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Bishop Hairy Palms

      imABeliever

      How do I explain it?

      Simple.....recruitment effort. Works well for them too.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @imABeliever

      The red cross isn't a religious organization and is in no way associated with any religious group. Even it's cross symbol (one of several) isn't universally agreed to be derived from a Christian cross.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • imABeliever

      Can't stop talking out of my butt

      December 10, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  19. Justin

    I don't want to sound biased here, but this idiot isn't going to sell many books. My beliefs tell me that this guy is an opportunist and I am endowed by my creator to call him on this B.S. The goals and aspirations of the party that this author has conveniently omitted from his diatribe, do there bidding for the most un-Jesus like reasons imaginable. Namely greed.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  20. Griff

    Wow, interesting article! Blaming Obama for fighting a dirty battle against whom? The Right fought in exactly the same way. If you would remember it was Romney that used the 'Auto industry is sending jobs overseas' to try and scare people to vote for him. Also, what about the CEOs that were scaring their employees and telling them if they voted for Obama they would probably lose their jobs. What about all the money that was spent to try and defeat Obama? The nation is divided, but it did not start with President Obama. The Bush administration is also to blame for the fighting between the parties. This is a very one sided argument from someone who claims he treats everyone with 'Love' and fairness?

    December 10, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • patsj

      I have never witnessed so much slander against a president in my over 40 years of voting. The lies about policy flew from both sides, but the lies about Obama were unprecedented.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:19 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.