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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. Bill Mueller

    So exposing the corruption, lies and criminal behavior of the Republican candidate now deserves repentance? The only thing president Obama needs to repent for is not throwing Karl Rove in jail for attempting to steal yet another election.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • J. Kells

      Nice!

      December 10, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  2. Concerned in Cleveland

    I have accepted, sadly, that Obama will not extend his hand in peace to the half of the country that voted against him.
    He considers them, his enemies, and there is no reason the feeling should not be mutual.
    Sadly, I accept that over the next few years our country will split further and further apart.
    Eventually it will come to bloodshed and civil war.
    I have accepted it. It's now just a matter of preparing, and then doing what must be done when the killing starts.
    It is tragic and should have been avoided, but this is the natural order of things, new life grows from the blood stains.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Neueman

      He's been extending his hand for the last four years.

      Perhaps you haven't noticed because you're too busy trying to bite it off?

      December 10, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • sam

      Is this Ted Nugent?

      December 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Bill Mueller

      Idiot

      December 10, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • J. Kells

      You should be concerned, as I am not sure but, I think what you have just stated may be criminal...

      December 10, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Alverant

      You're confusing "hand of peace" with "total submission". President Obama has repeated extended an actual hand of peace with the goal of comprirmise to the other half of the country, but it's been pushed away every time. You don't want to work WITH the President. You want to keep him from doing his job then blaming him for the state the country is in. Didn't you learn anything last month?

      December 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Albert Brooks

      Ok, crazy!

      December 10, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • John

      CiC, we know how you feel, but thanks for spelling it out. This is how a child acts when not getting their way.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Concerned in Cleveland

      I don't advocate violence. I simply accept now that internet rhetoric is feeding hatred at a fundamental level. As things get worse it's only a matter of time until people start to kill each other and war breaks out. I'll be ready to protect my family. That can mean a lot of things besides taking a side or joining in the violence. I simply accept that there is a social price to be paid that adds up after billions and billions of hateful posts to the internet, or conversations in restaurants, or thoughts in heads reach the boiling point.

      I don't have to join in the violence. I've got a nice place to hide my family with enough supplies to sit quietly until it's over.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • sam

      Oh boy, it's one of those survivalist guys with the year of canned goods and the underground bunkers.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Concerned in Cleveland

      close... 18 months. I figure it will only take about a year for famine to lead to cannibalism to lead to a silent world.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Tone2

      Were you a concerned citizen during all the unfounded accusations about the president.
      Since this election the president has invited Bishop Romney to dinner, he has met with the fat cats, he has not thrown anyone in prison or launch new investigation of people like Adelson et-al.
      May I say your concern reflects on what you would do if you were in the president's shoes.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • burbanktj

      what a bunch of bull. even if for some reason that were true, he would never act that way and give you crazies more fuel for the fire.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
  3. J. Kells

    There we go. The voice of the religious crying out from the wilderness saying, Hate, Hate!!! lol, (sigh)

    December 10, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Shameless Self Promotion

      This dude is just trying to name drop the President in order to sell more copies of his book. Shameless!

      December 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  4. there is no other truth but truth absolute, and truth absolute is LORD AND GOD OF THE WORLD.

    hinduism, hog wash of a hindu ignorant, follower of hindu Mithra ism, savior ism dubbed as Christianity to hind ,fool humanity, based not on truth absolute of humanity but hinduism, racism of hind dark ages. It is not matter of hinduism, corruption of truth absolute called religions, established to worship personalities and feel self riches, as is the case with author, but of La, truth absolute, Lord and God of the world, he and hindu pagan christian deny by their hindu Judaism, filthy self center ism, secular ism, way of hindu Lucifer, filthy secular, they follow as their god in life. As it is said, talk is hind, cheap, show some thing in practical by truth, than to be spewing hinduism, absurdities to hind, fool others.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Neueman

      hindu hindu hindu!

      blah blah blah!

      NEXT!

      December 10, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • J. Kells

      Very well said. BTW what the %#^$# did you say???

      December 10, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  5. Maria Carvalho

    This is the most hypocritical piece of one sided demagogy I have ever read. Akin and company are good men with principles? No, sir, they are ignorant women haters and the president was right to denounce them. You, a member of a political group that made character asesination an art form, are throwing stones at President Obama? Who are the real dividers? Why vilfy a man that has acted as a true gentleman during the Republican insanity? Shame on you for using Christian principles as an excuse to vent your sore loser anger. Christ would not recognize his doctrine as it is being used by the far right to fabricate absurd and empty accusations. That's why Republicans will lose and lose again until they learn that "justice for all" are words to live by, not to use in empty rhetoric to discriminate against those that are different. President Obama has not divided the nation, that's Fox News demagogy, he has brought a new view of the world that you can't see through your prejudice and anger. This is a new century, try to live in it. And check what the Bible says about false testimonies. You, sir are guilty of that sin. Go and sin no more.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  6. AngieL

    Like many that have already commented, I was disappointed to read this article. I thought that there was some major faux pas that the president had committed to which I was not previously privy. But after reading, I find it interesting that there is such a distortion of religion by the writer, and such a mockery of it by the commentators. Religion is just what it is – a group of people that have come to together in support of shared values and beliefs. However – there is a difference between those that have a relationship (understand what they are believing), and those that are flocking to religiosity (further support of the beliefs to which they have already ascribed). The Bible says "let he without sin cast the first stone". So to insist that someone has done wrong and to insist that they repent is a sin in itself. To only illustrate the shortcomings of one, but not another is sinful. It further speaks of the splinter in your brother's eye, while a plank resides in your own. So let's examine some of the planks ..... If a man becomes rich, but at the expense of the worker's that work in his factories, is his wealth really his own? Is marriage between a man and a woman truly sacred if foolish shows like "the Bachelor", "the Bachelorette" and others allowed to exist without complaint? If a man and a woman can marry one day and be divorced 72 days later, and yet the same couple is idolized? Is it truly respected and held sacred? Is life held sacred only in the womb by those that are pro-life, but the continuation of the death penalty goes without much complaint? If a pregnant woman comes to this country solely for the purpose of gaining citizen rights for her baby – including health care, education, etc, but pays no taxes into the system to support that child, is she really an immigrant or a thief? If a politician says one thing in front of one group of people, but speaks another in a private setting, which of his words are to be believed as "his or her truth"?
    While it is true there are many hypocrites in the church (or in any religion for that matter), there is an ideal to which all believers aspire. The humanness is what causes people to miss the mark. Why do we need religion? Because sadly, for the same reason that we need laws. People do not govern themselves – they do not treat others as they would wish to be treated. So like laws, religion is to help establish guidelines, direction for those times of uncertainty. While no one has proven the existence of a heaven or a hell, I would like to think it is like car insurance.....you don't expect to have an accident, but when you do, you are sure glad that you have insurance and your policy is current!
    Religion is not what is wrong with politics or this country....what is wrong are the hypocrites that believe that only their distorted views are correct. Like my grandmother used to say..."when you point a finger at someone, remember there are four pointing back at you."

    December 10, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Madtown

      I would like to think it is like car insurance
      -------
      The problem I see with this analogy, is that having car insurance doesn't help you when you need to have major surgery. So many strict religious adherents like to say "their" religion is the "correct" religion. But, how would they know that their version is correct, and someone elses' version is not? They wouldn't. That's why none of them are correct, for everyone.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  7. amy

    Blah blah blah bible blah blah blah jesus blah blah blah santa claus blah blah blah unicorns blah blah blah faith.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  8. Mnemonic44

    Mr. Metaxas, did you type this article with a straight face? If so, how?

    December 10, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  9. Sigh

    The article, even if written by someone under mental threat to be good from some theoretical divine being, has a message which, while not applied equally, a lot of you would do well to take to heart. People these days seem desperate to search for the evil in something while throwing out the good. Even worse, dishing out bigotry and hatred hand over fist while sanctimoniously condemning it in others. I'm not even Christian, but wholeheartedly agree with the following: "Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?... Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." So many beams, so many hypocrites.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • burbanktj

      well said

      December 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  10. LoganOne

    Obama dis-respected me, and all of the white population of the world, by claiming he is black. Obama is 1/2 white, was raised in a white household, and mostly supported his whole life by white people. He only claims he is black because it benefits him politically. Obama is a race baitor the same as al sharpton is a race baitor. Obama owes most of America several big appologies.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Maria Carvalho

      You should write comedy.

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

      Oh, stop being a hysteric. He has ALWAYS said he's bi-racial; it's people like YOU who claim "if you have a drop of black in you, you're black"..mwhen he calls himself black, people like you cry foul??? How retarded.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Truth hurts

      Mixed cultured people are and have been DISREPECTED for years by being treated as second class citizens even when we have green or grey eyes and have caucasion features. Our President has praised his mother and grandparents for their accomplishments and how they raised him and I have never heard him deny his heritage black or white. FYI in America if you have 1 drop of blood in you.... your were considered to be black....we certainly didn't make the rules we just had to live by them.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • sam

      This is HILARIOUS.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • ;p;

      Maybe take a poll in the south, see who thinks he's white

      December 10, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • lucifer

      LMFAO! I'm sure you would be the one defending him if he said he was white! Just like you probably defend him from people claiming he's a Muslim... Funny guy! LOL

      December 10, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • burbanktj

      You're right, he should've said he was a white man. I know all my halfsies friends call themselves white. What a load of crud...

      December 10, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  11. TommyTT

    Oh, pooh. Given the right's habit of picking an underdog group to beat up on at each major election, I don't find the President's behavior nearly so bad. And in this entire article there's not one word about gay people, who've been seriously victimized by the religious right. There's more snark than sermon here.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  12. Neueman

    Jesus said nothing about a bortion.

    He mostly talked about caring for the poor and the sick.

    Poverty is the primary thing that drives people to have an a bortion. If so called "Christians" actually cared about children, they'd do something to help the millions of children who are born into poverty and abuse every year. Anything less than this is just more self-righteous hot air.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Ann

      There are hundreds of faith-based charities out there that do just exactly as you say Christians should do. My guess is that you've never visited any of those charities and shelters that are held afloat by donations and good people of all faiths who volunteer.

      Jesus might not have used the word "abortion" but the idea that life begins at conception is implied....God knew you before you were born, in your mother's womb. Any person who has ever felt theirchild kick inside a women's womb knows that there's a life inside her.

      But this article isn't about abortion. It's about how this current president has villified people of faith and people who have worked hard to be successful and how that has divided this nation. This president has the power to heal this divide and reunite this country, but he chooses to continue to divide it, all for the sake of politics. There really isn't anyone else in this country that has as much influence as Obama to stop tearing this nation apart....He needs to stop playing dirty old politics and be the first to take the high road.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  13. Steve Owens

    Mr. Metaxas, first of all, who are you to tell the President that he needs to repent for the way that he ran his campaign? You are an unperfect human being just like the rest of us. Secondly, you should not just single out the President. Many, if not all of the campaigns were dirty. I'm also very disgusted with what politics has become in this country. Speaking out about that is respectable. Shaming the President is unacceptable.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  14. O'Dumbama

    Barack Obama is a Third World Politician.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • palintwit

      Get back in your trailer bagboy. Nascar's on and you won't want to miss that.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • burbanktj

      Congratulations on formulating an entire sentence! We can work on the caps thing later...

      December 10, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  15. J. Kells

    Boo Hoo!!!
    Mr. Ian Johnso,n you sir are spot on and thank you!
    Cry us a river Eric as you shamelessly promote your books, and have a religious pity party for the world to read. One day all will be reveled, and it may surprise you sir, whom will be doing the repenting. Who gave you the authority to tell the President of The United States Of American to repent; God, the republicans??? Please show me where God mandated you to be political in any wise. Choose which side you are on because it was The Master, Jesus who said let Caesar have what is Caesars and be about God's business. You sir have disgraced yourself. Please do not think that because you stood on the same stage as Mother Teresa and Barrack Obama, that you could walk one inch in their shoes. These are people who actually exercise the Lord's commandments, you know like helping the people that the rich have trampled on like the republicans who want to steal blankets from homeless vets on the street. You sir have made an opportunity to speak of the real commandments and love of God, into your political battle cry. Disgusting! You are correct in that, this country is dived; divided to the point that your side of "Do as I say or God will get you politics" have run their course, and now WE THE PEOPLE say to you in the last two elections, "shut the *$#%^ up". Oh and some are praying for you. No Pressure

    December 10, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  16. Reality

    AND THE INFAMOUS ANGELIC CONS CONTINUE TO WREAK STUPIDITY UPON THE WORLD:

    (only for the new members of this blog)

    Joe Smith had his Moroni. (As does M. Romney)

    "Latter-day Saints like M. Romney also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

    Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

    Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

    Jesus and his family had/has Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day demon of the demented. (As does BO and his family)(As do Biden and Ryan)( As does Mextaxas)

    The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

    Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie/horn-blowing thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status

    December 10, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  17. Barry

    You might possibly maintained a shred of credibility and integrity if you had composed this piece to include both candidates. As it is, the fact that you directed your comments to the President despite the fact that BOTH campaigns at times crossed way over the line, shows that you are just another partisan hack, albeit one that is more skilled in civil discourse.

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

      He is not criticizing Romeny be because Romney lost. The President needs to lead and make a mends in order to fix a broken system.

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

      I agree. This is the problem with these types of articles, it paints one side or the other, or individuals in mostly right or wrong. When in fact there are many, many issues and considerations. One of the best way to help people change course is not by casting them as all or mostly negative. The real truth in my opinion is that both Romney and Obama each had some good ideas, bad ideas and different shades in between. The problem is people are saying to others: you got to change, and hence how the campaign election, and the media developed and divided more people.
      Instead how about everyone start looking for the good things and ideas other people have and giving them real credit for them. Not you did this good, but.... This article does not help anyone start to work together by pointing out short comings in their eyes or differences, or common ground, and may well help to maintain the divides.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • New Generation

      No, he is not criticizing Romney because Romney was the "Christian," Republican candidate. There were many times where the Romney campaign was more degrading and nasty toward Obama than the other way around–setting aside the idea of treating people the way they should have been treated. Do you think that the author would have been chastizing Romney at this breakfast had he won the election? Give me a break. The idea that this pompus @$$ thinks he has the authority (and balls) to get up on stage and later write that ANY ONE PERSON needs to repent while ignoring the rest is idiotic.

      Eric Metaxas has done nothing in this article but further slander what Christianity is supposed to look like by mounting his high horse of faith and parading through the crowds like a fool. Mr. Metaxas, you wonder why the nation is turning away from Christianity–it is because all people are no longer ignorant enough to simply believe what people like you say without critical examination. Perhaps the call to repent needs to be answered by someone else.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  18. Speak the Truth

    As a minister myself, I found Mr. Metaxes article appalling. This one-sided attack against the president betrays this man's true allegiences. What about those who worked actively to defeat Obama's health plan? What about those who spred lies about his Medicare plan? Where was Mr. Metaxes supposed umbrage who shipped jobs of working class families oversees while they themselves, including their candidate, hid money in non-taxable off shore accounts. And equally deplorable, what about those who would risk our and our children's health by pushing for more drilling, more burning of coal, and the abolition of the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. This article betrays Mr. Metaxes callousness towards those whom Jesus would lift up. It is you, sir, who are the hypocrite. It is you who should repent.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  19. Deserttrek

    obama is a liar and the worst peice of human garbage I have seen in my lifetime. to those who support him, the same to you too.

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

      You're just going to be miserable for the next 4 years, aren't you?

      December 10, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Speak the Truth

      Really? The worst? You can't think of anyone worse?

      December 10, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Barry

      Coming from the likes of you, that's quite a compliment. Thanks!

      December 10, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Neueman

      Deserttrek

      I was going to list all the ways in which you are a m oron. But your ignorance is clearly it's own punishment.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Lama

      HAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! SUCK IT!!!!! Gonna be a great 4 years!

      December 10, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      I'm gonna stick my neck out here, and guess that you're on the red team?

      December 10, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • J. Kells

      There we go. The voice of the religious crying out from the wilderness saying, Hate, Hate!!! lol, (sigh)

      December 10, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • sam

      What rock have you been living under??

      December 10, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • New Generation

      What kind of crack are you smoking, moron? He won. Get over it. People are moving past your partie's outdated ideals and there's nothing you can do about it but b!tch and moan like an impotent jerk. STFU.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • burbanktj

      You must've gotten a lot of lone time with the President to be able to compare him to all other humans you've met in your life...which I'm assuming are all related.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  20. deadlyserious

    Wow. Over a month later, and you're still sore about losing?

    Romney's camp fought a far dirtier campaign. I'm not saying that Obama's campaign was right to descend to the same level, but it was clear that they did so as a reaction.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:23 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.