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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. Pedro Gonzalez

    What do you expect? Democrats are generally hypocrites and Obama is no different. The party of inclusiveness and tolerance is always condemning of those who are different. They claim to have "truths" but deny the realities of life. To them, compromise is when the opposition changes. But sadly, both sides of the aisle are filled with BS-ers and the best BS-er usually wins. this year it was Obama.

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

      Yes, how dare they be intolerant of racists and religious fanatics!

      Intolerance of intolerance is intolerable!

      December 10, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • ashaw12001

      I'm at a loss, Pedro. Are you seriously accusing the Democratic Party of being the party that won't compromise? This comment has so little grounding in reality, it's laughable. If I get your logic, you're saying that pointing out intolerant people is in itself a form of intolerance? Also, what exactly are these "realities of life"? I think I lost ten IQ points just by reading your thoughts.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  2. Julie

    I'm amazed by the comments of Eric Metaxas, he seems to write only to support his distorted view of President O'Bama failing to recognize, as the vast majority of Americans' have stated on November 7th, that our president is a man of Honor and dignity who did not respond in kind to the lies an distortions of his opponents. Please Mr. Metaxas accept the will of the American People for fair and honest representation.

    December 10, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • frespech

      Julie I hope he will feel as compelled to address Mitt Romney who demeaned 47% of Americans a being lazy and no good moochers. Fair is Fair correct?

      December 10, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Concerned in Cleveland

      And by "vast majority" you mean 2 percent of the population?

      or do you mean winning the electoral vote by a grand total of 330,000 popular votes spread across 4 states, a small town the size of corpus christi texas.

      Keep talking about fascist mandates, and see how far you get when almost half of the people are against you.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Neueman

      Concerned in Cleveland

      Your numbers and your ideas are so far from reality.

      Faux News much?

      December 10, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Alicia

      He can start by praying for the president. Jesus did not demand apology from his persecutors. If offended, this sound Christian should follow the example of Christ.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  3. michiganhockey11

    You should have given him Bonhoeffer's "The Cost of Discipleship".

    December 10, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  4. faithCRUSHER

    One thing that drives me nuts is a self-righteous Christian spouting off about how the world needs to have reverence for biblical dogma, while they do what they please (including but not limited to justifying slavery, discrediting science, oppressing women, etc...), because they are perpetually forgiven by the eternal grace of a supernatural ghost. Mr. Metaxas, how can you call oppressing those with dissenting opinions high minded principals? As soon as Christians show some respect for women, gays, and foreigners, then we can sit down and talk, but until then, keep your fanatical opinions to yourself!

    December 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Allie

      You people are scary. But you will reap what you sow.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Allie,

      You call us scary and then recite what amounts to a magical "curse" on us. The irony is thick.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • imABeliever

      It's not magic, she is speaking truth. Your not believing the truth doesn't change reality. Repent, my friend.

      December 10, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Stating something is true doesn't make it so, think my friend.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  5. Hugh Mann

    Eric, you are being the usual pious, pompous beast of burden that we have all come to expect from the "Christian". For instance, you willingly name those that may disagree with your or have a skewed viewpoint from your chosen angle to be your "enemy", and yet you claim to "love" them. How, exactly, is tolerance "love"? And again, how is it love to even call them an enemy when it is a matter of opinion? You have no more proof of your "faith" than anyone else has for their faith.
    What makes your paranoia any more valid that you have make enemies in the first place?
    And an "ugly" victory? and accusing the winner as being the "divisive" one is Love?
    I would sure hate to see what your Krusader mind would do to areal Enemy-of-the-State....
    It is appalling to my "faith" in Christianity, and my reading of the scriptures to even listen to your hateful innuendos. And, I can see why people at this gathering would be uncomfortable having to endure 30 minutes of your speech...
    I do not "love" hate speeches, no matter how veiled they are in "faith".

    December 10, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  6. Frank

    Religion was created by man to control mankind... thankfully our President is not stupid enough to buy into it...

    December 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • VanHagar

      He hasn't bought into it? So the president is lying when he says he is a Christian?

      December 10, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • frespech

      Frank we had Kings and Queens to subjugate people-why is it you believe we needed religion.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • imABeliever

      Ummm... Frank, the president has repeatedly insisted that he is, in fact, a Christian. You don't take him at his word?

      December 10, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  7. Neueman

    How dare anyone "demonize" a party who's official platform declares that r ape victims should be forced to bear the child of their r apist?

    Repent!

    December 10, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • JohnoT

      Correct. If only because it's not helpful.

      The right to lifers believe the unborn is a child who is alive and a human being and comitted no crime worthy of the death penalty.

      That's what they believe. We don't agree. I don't agree, but I don't demonize them for their opinion, and it's not right to do so.

      And shame on anyone that does.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Neueman

      JohnoT

      They are free to believe all the crazy, backward, b s that they want.

      But when they move to make it the law of the land, imposing it on the rest of us, I will call it what it is.

      You are a fool to do otherwise in the name of "fairness" or "civility".

      Crazy should be called out as crazy.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • imABeliever

      Since when is it right to execute the death penalty on an innocent victim (the baby), just becase the father commited a heinous crime?

      December 10, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  8. jj

    He questions Obama's ethics? OMG, the Republicans wrote the book on unethical behavior.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • Interested48

      Amen to that!!

      December 10, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  9. John

    Hypocrite!

    December 10, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  10. Dan

    Mr. Metaxas, have you ever considered writing articles that examine both sides of the issue instead of only presenting your side? It makes you more believable and seem less like a religious nut job.

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

      Would you point that out if the article was written to your point of view?

      December 10, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  11. Akira

    "...must make amends with his opponents, if it’s not too late.  Or else he will face gridlock and more gridlock."
    By amends, does he mean "kiss the GOP's ass?"
    What does Mr. Metaxas think the POTUS has been facing, if not gridlock and more gridlock?

    He should be giving this little pep talk to the GOP. 

    December 10, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  12. Eric

    This might be one of the lamest "Think of the children!" pleas I've read in a long time...and this is coming from someone who has Metaxas' biography on Bonhoeffer front and center on my bookshelf.

    I have one question for Eric Metaxas: would you have written this exact same column about how the demonization of the 47% was unchristian if Mitt Romney had won the election? If the answer to that question is anything other than "absolutely," you're a hypocrite, my friend.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Allie

      How did Romney demonize the 47%?

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

      My opinion of whether debate is harmed or helped by caring about the words we use – is not hinged on Eric Metaxas.

      If he's a hypocrite or not, I do not care – it matters not one bit.

      This is a point that seems lost on most – right and wrong isn't based on the good moral values of the speaker.

      I maintain the point he's made is valid – even if he wouldn't be brave enough to speak it with a different winner of the election.

      If Romney had won, more than likely it would have been a liberal making the exact same point – and I, for one, would then be saying to that liberal – the point is valid!

      As I do today – the point is valid. We are divisive in our speech, and ridiculously so.

      It is OK to say someone is wrong. It is not OK to say they are evil, insane, mentally ill – whatever – simply because you disagree with them. And that is what we do – even our politcal leaders do this.

      And unfortunately Obama is certainly not raising above this – in fact, he's splitting the country along racial and gender lines – in a way the country is now reversing some of the progress of the last 50 years.

      It's this belief in demographic politics, that is the main culprit.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Neueman

      JohnoT

      His point is made invalid by the selective outrage that it exposes.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • JohnoT

      Neueman, LOL

      No it isn't.

      That's a logical fallacy. Eric Metaxas doesn't own the point. 2+2=4, no matter how bad Eric Metaxas may be at math – he doesn't own math.

      He may be engaging in selective outrage, you haven't proven that point – you offer no facts, but lets just say I've seen people with selective outrage in my life, so I'm inclined to believe you could be correct.

      So what. He doesn't own the point, so it can't be made invalid by anything in his moral character.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Neueman

      JohnoT

      Perhaps you should read the article again?

      Slowly this time......

      December 10, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • ;p;

      Reading is hard John

      December 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  13. Amy

    Dear Eric Metaxas, Please avoid speaking from both sides of your mouth in Christs name. Folks like you do a great disservice to the Christian faith.... or atleast try to use some tact next time to hide your bias! This article has no substance and no point. Election is over, try to learn something from it as opposed to lecturing the president who just soundly won the election!!!!

    December 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • there is no other truth but truth absolute, and truth absolute is LORD AND GOD OF THE WORLD.

      hinduism, gas of a hind, sour hindu, looser.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  14. Katie

    Another one trying to sell a book and get free publicity. Shock! Making money on the less educated and poor. What an honor.
    Why is he not in poor towns all over the country trying to raise awareness of poverty, lack of healthcare, education, jobs ect...
    Before they start casting stones maybe they should take a look in the mirror.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  15. Akira

    The very idea that the POTUS should make amends for winning is wholly absurd.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Joe S.

      You completely missed the point.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  16. palintwit

    If I was Sarah Palin I'd hop in my car, drive to the nearest New York style deli and stick my head in a bread slicing machine.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      From your lips to God's ears.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  17. chilli7up

    Great article.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Akira

      Triumph: "for me to POOP on."

      December 10, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Akira, that made me chuckle..

      December 10, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • sam

      LOL, Akira

      December 10, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  18. t3chn0ph0b3

    The "War on Women" epithet is no demonization. It's a well deserved description of the official GOP platform.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Saraswati

      No, it's idiotic. That doesn't mean it doesn't work or that Republican's aren't idiotic in their own numerous ways, but the "war of women" claim is one of the stupidest things to come out of the Democratic Party (of which I am, for lack of a better option, a member).

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

      %110 CORRECT about the GOP war on women. We are a SECULAR nation, we are NOT a christian nation. I wish just once CNN would have a "lack of belief blog." Xstians are absolutely DISGUSTING the way they are sticking their noses where they don't belong, and where they have no right to be. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been trying to get Obama to NOT attend the National Prayer Breakfast. The idea of such a meal involving OUR SECULAR GOVERNMENT and the word "prayer" makes me want to vomit. This breakfast must be eliminated. It is ILLEGAL if ANY taxpayer money, (which means The President's official "time on the clock") is being used to finance it. PUKE PUKE PUKE on religion and it's influence on the governance of this country.

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

      Nietodarwin, quite the devangelical. You are just as bad as any in-your-face Christian you hate.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  19. Steve

    So that part in the book of Exodus where God kills all the first born sons of the Egyptians. Is that because he was Pro-Life, or because he loved those that disagreed with him?

    December 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      The reply from the silly would be "he can do whatever he wants"......in othere words the ultimate moral law giver is not himself required to act morally.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      Steve, like many others you are using the examples from the Old Testament and holding them against those who pass on the lessons taught by Jesus. Did all that stuff in the Old Testament happen? I don't know. I wasn't there, and it wasn't actually written down until the end of the first Temple Period.
      One problem which I have commented on over and over again is too many Christians use the Old Testament, the letters of Paul, and the Revelations of John as their guide instead of the actual teachings of Jesus in the Four Gospels. If they spent more time concentrating on those four books, instead of the rest of the Bible, as their guide to how Jesus wanted us to live our lives, we would hear a lot less tripe and contradictions from them.

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

      Steve: to put it very very simplistic, God does not answer to you. You answer to God. Believe it or not.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • WayOut

      Nothing different than all the babies that you kill every year through abortion my friend. Pharoh, the leader of the evil empire brought that on by his utter wickedness and disobedience. History repeats itself nowdays through our own sins.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • ;p;

      @WayOut

      KOO KOO

      December 10, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • imABeliever

      God, as God, as the right to execute the death penalty on sinners (including you and me) at anytime he chooses to do so. There was, and is, no injustice on the part of God.

      December 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  20. Jt_flyer

    It's a good thing your beliefs are absolutely, positively irrelevant to me. Is all about the US voting system. We spoke. You whine.
    Word of advise: Be sure the nxt GOP candidate for president is an extremely concervative, religious fanatic. We're on a roll.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:40 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.