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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. Jerry

    Just like I expected, the morons would be coming out of the woodwork. After all, King Obama can do NO wrong. And, of course freedom of speech/expression, only applies to those who "Bend Forward" to please the "Bully-in-Chief" and Moochie.

    Oh well...

    December 10, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Double Pulsars

      Jerry, Romney lost – get over it.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • jboh

      OK. You let out that rancid load of TEA trash. Now go burn your cross delusional jack** in chief.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Translation of Jerry's post: WAHHHHAHHAHHHAHAHAHA!

      December 10, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  2. Dave

    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. – Eric Metaxas

    It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. – Jesus Christ

    December 10, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  3. Bootyfunk

    what a giant EGO. wow, how does this guy get his head through the door? what a self-important d-bag.

    December 10, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  4. pauleky

    Wow...I am often amazed at the hypocrisy shown on this "Belief Blog." I have no problem with anyone taking the President to task for "scorched-Earth politics," but did this guy not see, read or hear any of the garbage being spewed by those on the right? I could simply show him the e-mails I received from friends and family that were some of the most racist things I have ever seen (yeah, these friends and family members are not close friends and family). Look at your average Twitter feed from some of the more extreme factions on the right. Disgusting.

    As for "loving" those that call you a bigot, fine, but do you even examine why you're being called a bigot? I'm sorry, but your hatred and oppression based on your religious beliefs is still hatred and oppression – bigotry. Nice try, but I think most of us are happily moving into the 21st century and these 15th century beliefs need to, at least, stay in their churches and homes where they belong.

    December 10, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  5. iRex

    Where are the admonishments to the other side who do the same thing and also tout how "Christian" they are?

    December 10, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Yeah, I thought that, too. His criticisms, while juvenile, are certainly valid, but applt equally to both sides. Singling out the Obama campaign just highlights the political motivations behind the opinions.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  6. bencoates57

    I'm not a card-carrying member of any organized church, but this guy hit the nail on the head. I always thought the Obama and the media (CNN particulalry) share in the shameful tactics they deployed against Romney. But hey, what the American voters are going to get for their role in this is a tanking labor economy - one the media has to continue to lie about (for example 146K jobs as good news) to defend its mistake.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • fsjunkie

      You forgot to say, "Amen". That WAS a prayer...right?

      December 10, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Akira

      The election is over.
      Oh, yeah, PS: Fox would be more to your taste, as that IS the "I hate Obama Network".

      December 10, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Pappy

      You're joking, right? Poor Mitt Romney. He played fair & square...no attack ads from him or his party of thugs. LOL. Grow up. The Koch Brothers & Sheldon Adleson spent a BILLION dollars in trying to get Obama out of office with sleazy advertising. I'm not saying Obama's camp didn't put up sleazy ads, but let's not just point at one side, here. The whole campaign – from both sides – was awful. And you have Citizens United to thank for it. Thanks Republican SCOTUS for passing that garbage.
      By the way....I'd have more respect for atheists. Let's stick with science and reality. It's the 21st freakin' century.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • The Other Bob

      What parallel universe have you been living in?- The economy has been improving, and Romney & Ryan were the kings of lying. Please point out anything from the Obama campaign that approached the level of medacity of say, Romney's nod to the birthers or Ryan holding Obama accountable from a plant closure that occurred before he took office.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  7. Robert

    God forgive him for being black. Amen.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • InFormed

      And may he forgive you for being a fool.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Another View

      A god forgive him for being black? Ahem. Which god are you referring to? Would you like to shame all the other 99,999+ gods out there men have worshiped for your one man made god? I'm sure I wouldn't want to be in your shoes if those other gods decided to stick a boot up your precious inner space between your buttocks.

      BTW, just when is your man made god going to show up for work? If it were under the same work rules you, I and the rest of the world are under, it would have been fired long ago.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  8. Fletcher

    Would Mr. Metaxas suggest that Wilberforce or Bonhoeffer mince words and pull punches against the British enslavers or Nazi murderers? There is a time to be blunt when facing down corruption and oppression, and Obama has finally begun to step up.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  9. Pete

    "Of course many will dismiss campaign hardball rhetoric as "what works." "

    And Romney was much different?

    December 10, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • DKSDSU

      My only regret is that CNN gave a forum to this blathering fool.

      December 10, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  10. the_dude

    Why would the anti-christ obama be invited to the national prayer meeting?

    December 10, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Huebert

      Why do you think Obama is the anti-Christ?

      December 10, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • InFormed

      There are two possibilities:

      1. He is NOT the anti-Christ
      2. The National Prayer meeting is actually held for/by and to honour Satan

      You decide which.

      December 10, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • fsjunkie

      Good illustration of why President Obama needs to continue to follow his own moral compass and not psychopathic apocolyptic unglued extremism.

      December 10, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Seyedibar

      you say "anti-christ" like it's a bad thing.

      December 10, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Mike Johnson

      Why are there people who are so ignorant they think Obama is the Antichrist and are too illiterate to know that proper nouns are capitalized in English? One is left pondering if looking ignorant is cool for conservatives?

      December 10, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • lol??

      Huebert, "1Jo 2:18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time."............... The serpent entered Cain's temple and then Judas's temple.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Huebert

      @lol

      What do serpents and temples have to do with anything?

      December 10, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • lol??

      spirits, lies, and murder........Jesus explained it..........."Jhn 8:44 Ye are of [your] father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it."

      December 10, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Huebert

      lol

      I see I will gain nothing from continuing.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • lol??

      Gain, HHHHhhhhmmm.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • jboh

      You are the anti Christ, along w/your fellow delusional TEA trash.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  11. Bob

    Not a religious person myself, but I agree that Obama and his camp did their best to demonize everyone else. In fact, it's what allowed Obama to win re-election in a horrible economy. His campaign slogan was "Yeah, I let you down, but I'm not as bad as that Mormon weirdo."

    December 10, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Akira

      LOL, seriously?
      Romney's whole campaign was "vote for me, I'm not Obama."
      Did we follow the same campaign?

      December 10, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • InFormed

      True, but no more than what the GOP were spewing. If Trump is still making a mockery of his name by insisting that Obama is not a US citizen then how can you take them any more seriously?

      December 10, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Mitt Romney

      Yeah! YEAH! That's just what he did!!!

      December 10, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Mike Johnson

      Bob you poor, poor victim. Once, I thought parents who last kids in the war in Iraq started by conservatives liars and promoted by Fox News had it bad. You poor, poor man. You've had to endure Obama vilifying you. Did a beer drinking Obama who follows Islam and who was born in Kenya take your guns?

      December 10, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • The Other Bob

      Another person apparntly living in a parallel universe. What economy were you looking at? The one in this country has been improving by virtually all measures.

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

      Demonizing? Have you listened to pill-popper rushblob, cluster FOX, Breitbart, Snewt, or the rest of the CONjobservative infotainment racket? He won because the TEA trash agenda is not welcome by a MAJORITY of REAL Americans. You should just join the silent non-majority before you make yourself look even more foolish.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  12. atroy

    To summarize Metaxas' article: "I'm a good Christian. Please buy my book."

    The "money changers" have once again taken over the temple.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  13. Stifler

    Angry, White Male, Religious Right, Sore Loser, Man of Faith who truly does not love the sinner...can you think of anything else?

    December 10, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  14. Reasonably

    Zzzzz....your main problem with Obama is that he used the very same tactics used by his opponent. Maybe you should focus your attention on the GOP since they do not follow your go's commands to "love those with whom I disagree, to treat them with civility and respect, as creatures made in God's image." Like minorities, LGBT folks and women.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  15. fsjunkie

    Just reading this article alone tells the story of what this President has had to endure...and has done an absolutely remarkable job of handling, managing to earn reelection by electoral college AND resounding popular vote. It didn't take very long for me to figure out that President Obama was about the most genuine thing in Washington D.C. Nearly everybody else is a lobbyist of some sort, carrying some belief that the President personally owes them for not voting the other guy. If two people watching the same President describe him as a socialist AND a corporate plant, he's probably a centrist. I'm just sayin'. What confuses me is watching religious types constantly fumbling over when to abandon faith and when to take up political arms. How can you really subscribe to both? I think the President walked as humbly as he could through Hell on the way to reelection and a second term, where we can finally force the treasonous GOP to put forth some effort in earnest for the American people.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  16. Jon

    Eric Metaxas is an example of what happens to some people that get an opportunity to address a large audience without having a clear purpose. In my opinion, he did not capitalize on this opportunity in a useful way, but rather rambled and appeared hypocritical. That's all I got out of it. What a wasted opportunity.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  17. lalala

    The SNL skit pretty much summed it up

    December 10, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  18. Saraswati

    Oh for goodness sake, this is how politics works. This is how it has always worked and this is how it will continue to work. At least we don't have brawls in the aisles like in Taiwan. Pretending like it's a shock when a political party plays a little dirty (and note the author plays dirty himself by not specifiying who exactly said what he quotes) is as dishonest as anything these politicians (on all sides) themselves do.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  19. waterman

    If you don't want to demonized as "enemies of women" or "hating minorities", you can actually start by not being enemies of women, and not by hating minorities.

    Not to mention that a conservative telling other to be "fair" and to "not demonize" is like Colonel Sanders advocating compassion for chicken.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • steve

      You missed the point. People who sincerely disagree on when life begins aren't enemies of women.. including the 40 percent of women who agree abortion is wrong. You contribute to the political climate of hate he was opposing.

      December 10, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Akira

      How easy it is for the man to completely forget what started the dirty campaigning in the first place...and then scold the POTUS for defending himself and exposing the hypocrisy of the team Metexas bats for.

      December 10, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Saraswati

      @steve, I am completely 100% pro abortion rights, but I agree that the enemies of women statement is silly. People who use these kinds of inflamatory terms that the other side obviously knows inherently to be untrue just make fools of themselves and harm the cause. As for "when life begins", that's really part of the pro-lifer arguement and so doesn't mean much to those of us for whom the "definition of life" isn't an important part of our reasoning. Most pro-lifers aren't vegetarians, and unless I'm talking to one who is, I don't much care what they think about the definition of when it starts.

      December 10, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • The Other Bob

      @Steve: The "enemies of women" goes beyond the abortion issue (yes, pro-lifers, there ARE other issues). How about refusing to back equal pay for equal work, for starters?

      December 10, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Steven

      Agreeing that something is wrong isn't the same as agreeing to taking away someone's freedom to choose whether or not to do it. And 40% is a significant minority. How is it that you get to force your beliefs on the majority of women because some of them "agree" with you?

      I "agree" that Christianity is a hypocritical system that preaches intollerance of other beliefs, and the text it was based on was compiled from a collection of short stories written by people who thought the earth was flat and that sacrificing animals would bring about good fortune, but I'm not trying to legally take away your right to practice it. See the difference?

      December 10, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  20. Cosmos42

    Oh there's pressure... but only in your head.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:48 am |
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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.