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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. Willyboy

    Oh, get lost, Eric Metaxas. I am oh so very happy claims of religious affiliation are on the decline in the USA. It's time to grow out of your belief in mythology – or at least accept that is what it is. If delusional folks like you would just drop the dogma that twists and perverts the actual tenets of your religion, you would fine that you can very easily reconcile your faith with physical reality. But no, you cling to the same hate-filled, reality denying dogma and so doom yourself to insignificance and ultimately obsolescence like the believers in Greek, Roman, Norse, etc. mythologies before you.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Even though I am a 'closet Christian" I have bitter views regarding manmade churches and the piteous folds who do flock in numbers on Sundays or whatever days they do group up on! For in my Christian faith, I believe that our bodies are the true blue churches of God!

      December 10, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @lionlylamb................................For in my Christian faith, I believe that our bodies are the true blue churches of God!

      Do you feel the same way about gays and lesbians?

      December 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • leadercraft

      lionly – why do you call yourself a Christian when what you say isn't what they believe?

      December 10, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  2. cincinnatidavid

    Why does CNN publish such drivel?

    December 10, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • Esaias

      So ignorant and bigoted people like yourself could be educated, but alas that too is wishful thinking.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  3. r.thomas

    Yeah....well there are no truths in religion, only interpretation. Obviously the president's interpretation of christianity is different than yours Mr. Metaxas. This kind of rediculous judgment is just what makes religious opining obnoxious. Repent over political tactics? Really now, what a stupid notion.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • leadercraft

      such hatred for a call to repent. ah, we are back in the days of the prophets.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Esaias

      You're in a sorry state if you think absolute truth is open to interpretattion. You won't feel that way when you're dead and you appear in front of God. He's given us His Words – the Bible, and you can't spin it the you want to and think you can get away with that.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • Willyboy

      Dearest Esaias: Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha..... Oh, you're a hoot! Pathetic and very sad, but a hoot nevertheless...

      December 10, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  4. Kica

    Are you serious?????? I'm almost sure President Obama has forgiven mittens but that doesn't mean he needs to interact with him on a political or personal level. Get real.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  5. Observer

    lionlylamb,

    See? Although you drifted off near the end, you can write comments that people can understand and appreciate. You certainly have the intelligence to make worthwhile comments that aren't babble.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  6. Me

    You gotta be kidding me. To attack Obama and not mention the lies and deceit that Romney and the Ryan campaign spewed forth makes your whole opinion ridiculous. Wow.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • Esaias

      Hs! The biggest hypocrite in politics is Obams and the Democrats as a group Obama deepens us into $5 trillion more in debt then claims that the most important thing to do now is to get rid of the very debt he increased! You are a loser! Remove the tree in your own eye before trying to take the speck out of the GOPs.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • Esaias

      Remove the sh!t from your eyes! The biggest hypocrite in politics is Obama and the Democrats as a group Obama deepens us into $5 trillion more in debt then claims that the most important thing to do now is to get rid the the very debt he increased! You are a loser! Remove the tree in your own eye before trying to take the speck out of the GOPs.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @Esaias.................... You must be a bitter republican. You conveniently forgot the debt the republican Bush put on us. What about the Iraq war? Have you seen the WMD's yet. Pull your head out of your azz and deal with reality.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  7. Allen

    Although I do not endorse many of Metaxas' theological positions, I must say that the responses to his article sort of prove his point.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      What point is that? That the guy lives in an imaginary world. If he doesn't like the way the prez ran his reelection, why doesn't he run? Set an example, Lead. Lets see how far he gets.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  8. LetsBeCivil

    ...or maybe your book, Eric, is not that good or convincing and your bruised ego is just hurting.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  9. James

    The President has been very restrained in his words and actions in the face of open hostility and intransigence by the GOP and their surrogates like Trump. Compromise is needed when the country is divided and when the stated goal of the GOP was to make him a one-term president and to do everything possible to make him fail, how is a president suppose to react? It is up to his credit that he has maintained his humour, sense of fairness and convictions.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  10. mariner v

    Save your sermons for the ministry and stay out of politics that was the message of the founding fathers. It served us then and it serves us now. There is probably nothing as aggravating as listening to the clergy pontificating about the deficits of others. A better use of the time would be to refrain and prepare for the next round of preaching to the lost, misguided and uninformed. Since this describes the author here, it would proably make a good sermon. Get to work.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  11. lionlylamb

    Why is it most people can't see past the word 'universe' when the word "Cosmos" goes beyond a singular universe? Yes we live within a cosmologic universe but our universe is not the only one! There are immeasurable universes within this Cosmos of our universe's home base! There are likewise immeasurable amounts of multiple cosmos plural all coalescing to become a place of time and space beyond our measuring ways! Such an immeasurably vast place is the overall realm of cosmologic affirmations being a dimension where a huge planet would be conjured and our universe would be but like a drop in the bucket! Wake up people for you all are sleeping away your hardened liberties and dare to not dream of a place beyond our miniscule universe!

    December 10, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Yeah

      liarlylame is excellence in feculence

      December 10, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Yeah,

      And just where does one of your statistics perceive life being at in the 'naturalness'? Are you nothing more than a cosmologic vessel of ordained vestures in cellular commodities of lower celestial clemencies "forbodements"?

      December 10, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      What are you talking about?

      December 10, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  12. vidal808

    What a bunch of crap. The President has no need to apologize to anybody about winning the race. He won because the other side had ill conceived ideas and where totally out of place. Stick to your religion and don't get involved in politics. The President should have walked out on you, instate he was graceful enough to stay and listen to your rumble!

    December 10, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  13. seagull_girl

    Read "The Family" by Jeff Sharlet. It will open your eyes.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • leadercraft

      that thar book is a fine bit O excrement.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  14. TheObserver

    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. – OK FROM THIS SENTENCE ONWARD YOU'VE REALIZED THIS IS THE COMPLETE BS ARTICLE THAT CNN PROBABLY FEELS GUILTED INTO PUBLISHING TO MAKE IT LOOK LIKE THEY ARE OFFERING BOTH PERSPECTIVES EVEN THOUGH THEY KNOW THIS IS BS.

    Good people with principled and profound convictions about when life begins were cynically demonized as "enemies of women." – ONCE AGAIN THIS IS BECAUSE THE ISSUE AT HAND IS CHOICE. I AM PRO-CHOICE, NOT BECAUSE I'M FOR ABORTIONS, I BELIEVE THE CORRECT CHOICE IS TO AVOID ABORTIONS, BUT THAT CHOICE NEEDS TO BE THE MOTHERS, FATHERS, AND DOCTORS, NOT SOME SUIT IN WASHINGTONS. A VIBRANT YOUNG MOTHER-TO-BE JUST DIED IN IRELAND FROM COMPLICATIONS OF CHILD BIRTH WHEN SHE WENT SEPTIC FROM A FETUS THAT COULD NOT BE LEGALLY REMOVED. SHE DIED IN THE HOSPITAL WITH DOCTORS WATCHING.

    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. – DISHONEST BUSINESSMEN WHO EXPLOIT LOOPHOLES AND TREAT THEIR EMPLOYEES LIKE CRAP TO TURN A PROFIT ARE THE GROUP BEING "DENOUNCED" IN THIS CASE, DON'T GROUP THESE TOGETHER.

    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. – SINCE OUR GOVERNMENT SHOULD MAKE NO LAW CONCERNING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A RELIGION, AND SINCE ONE'S RELIGIOUS CONVICTIONS ARE A PRIVATE AND PERSONAL MATTER AND SHOULD HAVE NO BEARING ON SWAYING PUBLIC PERCEPTION, I THINK BARACK IS DOING OK. "CHRISTIANS" NEED TO BE LESS JUDGMENTAL.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • jwarino

      Excellent, well written.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • JohnnyGoGo

      Get some info on the Ireland case instead of making it up or lapping up crap that abortion nazis lead the weak minded with...

      http://www.lifesitenews.com/blog/legal-abortion-not-the-answer-in-ireland-deaths/

      December 10, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Kica

      Here Here!! well done.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  15. From the author's Wikipedia page

    "Although the book is popular in the United States, Bonhoeffer scholars have widely condemned Metaxas's book as unhistorical, theologically weak, and philosophically naive. Professor of German History and Bonhoeffer scholar Richard Weikart has credited Metaxas for his "engaging writing style" in his biography, but he critically assessed its content and characterized it as an appeal to Evangelical Christians in the United States, noting Metaxas' lack of philosophical, theological, and historical grounding to interpret Bonhoeffer properly"

    December 10, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  16. ShawnDH

    Please explain exactly what is so "Christian" about extending unaffordable and unpaid-for tax cuts for rich people that Republicans want to pretend to pay for by stealing from the elderly and dumping on the backs of the middle class and poor. No pressure.

    Disgusting.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  17. Larry Metaxaswhacker

    "One of the ways I show love is teasing people." Funny, most people call that abuse.

    December 10, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • pjusa

      You must not be very well loved.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  18. Steve

    I didn't realize the Bible states that 15% on capital gains and dividends is a "fair share". Perhaps the author can expand on why it's un-Christian to claim that it isn't.

    No pressure.

    December 10, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Esaias

      What is un-Christian isn't the % but the fact that the president spends the country into oblivion then demands either tax hikes and /or budget cuts for important programs such as education and Medicare. You will suffer the financial consequences for the fiscal cliff along with everyone else. He lied to us when he said he was going to be bipartisan. He is the worst president on this, he is anything but bipartisan. Just look to whom he talked with in considering TARP and Obamacare – only Democrats He demonizes (along with other liberals) with those with whom he disagreees, and doesn't protect the unborn through his Supreme Court appointments. He is unChrisitan.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @esaias......................Please go find something else to do. Stop wasting our time with your nonsense. You contradict yourself with every word you write.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  19. Bart

    You can't bring a butter knife to a gun fight. Lets "keep it real".

    December 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Texas Chainsaw Jesustan

      Well Bart, this is what happens when you use Google Translator.

      December 10, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  20. conoclast

    I Great bumper sticker:
    Instead Of Being Born Again
    Why Not Just Grow Up?
    The GOP has totally lost sight of the distinction between "conservatism" and religious proselytizing, supply-side "economics"
    being their replacement deity.

    December 10, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • leadercraft

      how's your fevered brow?

      December 10, 2012 at 7:00 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.