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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. sam

    Did this guy not see how the Romney campaign was run, or are his blinders that big?

    December 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  2. K Kim

    Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Proverbs 27:5.
    Pray for the President that he will obey God's will. I am a little disappointed that the main point of the story wasn't about President Obama having been appointed by God to lead this country; just as Pres. Bush and every other Pres. to have come before him. American people may have elected Pres Obama but it is God who appoints the President (see Bush v Gore 2000).

    December 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • sam

      I think that only works when the conservative candidate wins. $10 says someone trots in here soon and yells something about satan having control of the world now.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • imABeliever

      God absolutely and sovereignly did allow Obama to win the presidency, since He (God) is in charge and reigns on the throne. However, the same is true of Hitler, Nero, etc. God sovereignly sets up both good and wicked rulers alike.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Akira

      WHAT??
      God didn't "appoint" anyone to the Presidency, and never has...
      Bush won the electoral vote, after the disasterous debacle in FL in 2000.
      Yeesh!

      December 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • MaryJ

      So, God interfered with people's free will in this democracy and fixed the result, is that what you're saying? Or, are you saying that God would never allow a disaster to be elected president when W was? Can you explain what you mean by this?

      December 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • sam stone

      He was not elected to "uphold god's will"

      December 10, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      sorry this goes here

      no god had nothing to do with it human power put him in office, not your god

      December 10, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • imABeliever

      MaryJ, the bible teaches that God is absolutely sovereign over everything that happens. The westminster confession I think states it the best:
      "God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established."

      December 10, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Mike

      Presidents are not appointed by god. They are elected by the people they lead.

      God has no place in the process.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • sam

      No, no, c'mon you guys, let's go with this. Saying god appointed Obama is really going to throw a wrench in the right wing works.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      id rather not play their game, Sam. their all NPC to me, just a bunch of 1 and 0 in a flesh sack, if you shoot one they'll just respond.

      you see their a three types of people

      players/ wolfs
      NPC/ sheep
      Hackers/ shepherds

      this analogy never ends

      December 10, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  3. Wrong again

    What you conservatives don't understand is that other people have their own convictions, too. Some don't believe in a Biblical interpretation of marriage. Some don't believe life begins at inception. My convictions matter as well...and I believe gay marriage is morally right and a woman has the right to choose if she will carry to full term. Why don't you stop demonizing us?

    December 10, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Rich

      Wrong again,

      That's just his point....respect the other person even if you disagree with their view. He's not "demonizing" people who don't share his views. At the same time, he's just pointing out what his views are and why. It's okay to disagree....just do it without tearing down the other person. This isn't exclusive to Dems or Repubs...gay or straight, all are guilty, so there's no need to get defensive.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  4. RandyKC

    Repent?
    I believe the good reverend is confusing sins against God with perceived transgressions against his personal belief system. I don't think Obama owes you an apology and if you count falsehood as a sin, the other side had a lot more to repent than Obama does.
    That aside, any defense of the statements by Akin and Murdock should start with the phrase 'I agree these statements were stupid, ill-conceived, uninformed and indefensible'.

    December 10, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      no god had nothing to do with it human power put him in office, not your god

      December 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • sam

      >>perceived transgressions against his personal belief system.

      Yeah, I'm afraid so. He simply hasn't done himself any favors, here.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • imABeliever

      What the author is arguing is that the ends don't justify the means. Do you think it is a good thing for politicians to lie and demonize opponents in order to win elections? I'm sure you wouldn't like it of a republican did that, which they no doubt have as well. Neither party is guiltless.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • sam

      >>I'm sure you wouldn't like it of a republican did that, which they no doubt have as well.

      Uh...yes, that's why they lost the election. They were even more vituperative and ultimately scared their own base off.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      i don't care i vote 3rd party

      December 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • T.MacKY

      I completely agree with you. And while this author can list off the transgressions committed against these "good people" that he refers to, I want to know where he publically calls for the right's repentance for the many times that they've completely demonized Obama. Even to the extent of having theologians announce that Obama is wicked and against the will of God, or others with a supposed education announce that he is not competent or qualified to be the president.

      The real issue here, in my opinion, is not politics or religion, it's race.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  5. seanarussell

    "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."

    More republican propaganda masked as religious-speak. You don't hate women because you're against abortion. You hate women when you say a rapist gets a say in the baby he forced on somebody through a violent crime. Everybody must make amends to the poor right-wingers who have had such a hard time of it. Poor babies. When they make amends for their horrible actions; then maybe that will happen. This guy is tone-deaf to reality.

    December 10, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  6. jmh181

    Complete, total, & typical right-wing, conservative, one-sided garbage. If I wanted this level of "fair and balanced" I would go to Fox news.

    December 10, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • really?

      i agree wholeheartedly. frankly, the premise that the president, who bent over backwards time and again to try to gain consensus with the GOP whose primary stated goal was to make him a 1-term president, seems the victim not the cause of the divide.

      there are none so blind as those who [refuse to] see.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  7. Phattee

    "But as a Christian..."

    Why is this of any relevance? That's like me saying "But as a hat-wearer..."

    December 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • sam

      But as a chewer of gum...

      December 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  8. LP

    Clean up the negative rhetoric on your side, sir, before you demand that the President and his campaign staff do the same. I seem to recall a verse from your Bible about removing the log from your own eye first . . .

    December 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  9. Joe bob

    When it comes to presidential campaigns painting your opponent in an unfavorable light is the standard, NOT the exception. And I am not sure there is any effective way to kindly paint them as being unfavorable. Campaigns are what they are, and Nice is not a word you would use to describe them when citing a campaign strategy, any one who thinks that this is the case is being VERY unrealistic.

    December 10, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  10. Common Sense

    Something else...as President Obama is raising your book with the slight grin...and after reading your line of crap...I think a caption should read "And who in the &*^$ invited this *$#-hole!" Just seemed appropriate!

    December 10, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • More Common Sense

      you provide such indepth knowledge. You help change this world one comment at a time.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  11. Jeff

    Agreeing with many others here, I wonder just how deluded the author really is. Were you away from the planet during the last election?

    December 10, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  12. D James

    So much hate here. Sad to even read these responses. Clearly missing the point here.

    December 10, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • sam

      Oh, please do enlighten us.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • D James

      His point in the article is that even though he disagrees with Obama politically does not mean he wants him to perform poorly. Its upsetting that people cant disagree in a more constructive way instead of dishing out cruel comments like those in this comment section. We are all apart of the same nation arent we?

      December 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • sam

      Absolutely, but he's chosen to deliver the idea in packaging that's a bit hard to swallow due to the one-sidedness.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • D James

      I think the one sided aspect is pretty much everywhere these days. I do believe his underlying point is coming from the right place even if his idea of how it should be applied is different than how I would envision it. Thanks for now chewing my head off like the friendly folks below.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      D James i have never sworn an oath to America nor will i, I'm a Californian not an American

      keep the US out of California. so no i am not in the same nation... unless your a Californian to

      December 10, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • burbanktj

      People are harsh with their words but if you read through the hate you get the general consensus (at least from this board) in that the article is so one-sided that the author loses all credibility. It's not journalism in any sense.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  13. frank

    No need to repent...

    December 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • burbanktj

      Let's not forget that if it wasn't for repenting,Indiana Jones would've had his head chopped off!

      December 10, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  14. basketcase

    "These scorched-earth tactics..."

    I think you need to look up what scorched-earth tactics are. I don't think there were any being used during the election...

    December 10, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  15. David

    ...are you really so blind to your own?

    December 10, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  16. onefanatic

    "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."

    What a LUNATIC...

    December 10, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • D James

      How is respecting those who dont agree with you being a lunatic? If you are going to make such an accusation it would be wise to put some ground beneath your argument.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • onefanatic

      The creepy verbiage is enough to label him a crackpot. That god "commands" him to do things. Sounds like something a terrorist would say.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • imABeliever

      why do you insult him and call him a lunatic?
      what he said is straight out of the Bible.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • onefanatic

      I wipe my a** with your Bible, sir.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • D James

      What would any religion be without commands from the one being praised? Your lack of interest in religion shouldn't cause you to be so uncomfortable around it that you have to attack everyone with an interest.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • D James

      Way to have a discussion.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • More Common Sense

      Why do you have to insult someone elses religon. What are you so afraid of?

      December 10, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • onefanatic

      Terrorists. The Dark Ages. Replacement of science with myth. That sort of thing.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  17. MODU

    Ah yes, the old "Do unto others as you'd have done unto you" speech mixed with a dash of "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all." Politics isn't about being nice, which is why nice people rarely get elected. And that's the true shame of it all.

    December 10, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • imABeliever

      I agree that it's a shame you essentially have to be willing to lie and decieve in order to be "electable" and attain to a public office. That's why I could never be elected president. I'd just tell it like it is, state what my beliefs are, and let the chips fall where they may.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • sam

      It's become far, far too much about fingerpointing and insisting the other guy can't do the job. It's a circus.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  18. lionlylamb

    Lionlylamb wrote on December 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm, “In God all things are made. Of God are all things made to be manifested in God. By God are all manifested things made of God to ever be in God a manifestation for God's pleasure. For God are all things made manifested in God to ever be done by the graces of God's will to be had in and of and by and ever to be for Godliness intentions.”

    In rebuke of others, lionlylamb states, “The celestial heavens being but more than our universal perceptions of just one universe has in its’ holdings multiple cosmos (plural) of innumerable treasures of unlimited universes in great abundances. Nothingness itself is the Holy Spirit of God which holds all things in the Nothingness of its’ seasoned wealth; all manifestations great and also smallness of things yet unknowable to human kind’s psyche. Therefore, In God’s Holy Spirit of Nothingness all things are made and made to be manifested in his Holy Spirit’s Nothingness for God’s pleasures and God’s intentions”!

    December 10, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  19. rlj

    "Or else he will face gridlock" – what do you think he's been facing all along? You cannot threaten non-corporation when obstruction has been not just the means but the goal of the republican side.

    December 10, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  20. Susie

    Are liberals really this blind to their own hatred?

    December 10, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Akira

      Are conservatives?

      December 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • sam

      Hey Susie – something tells me your definition of liberals = 'people who don't agree with me'.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • jnwestray78

      are conservatives just as blind?

      December 10, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • i'm confused

      Am I blind to my own hatred? No not at all... I freely acknowledge those that I hate and they include: stupid people, ignorant people especially when overly opinionated (yes there is a difference between ignorance & plain stupidity), self righteous individuals who feel it necessary to push their own morals on others who disagree with their views. I could keep going but I feel the three groups that I have already listed are the primary reasons for which I hate the current/"modern" republican party.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:39 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.