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. Eric Metaxas

    I'm very important! Really! A legend in my own mind!

    Very humble. I'm very humble, as incredibly great men like me are.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  2. paulm5545

    I don't know. I think what the gentleman says makes a lot of sense – in an ideal world. It will never, ever happen in the world of politics and just how would he (or Romney, if he had won) repents. "Oh, by the way my fellow Americans. I'm sorry I was such a turd during during all that campaigning, but hey,it was nothing personal. For those kids that were watching – a lot of that mudslinging and name calling was like...acting. So, don't take it to heart, but for those of you that did, I am truly sorry."

    And even if Mr. Obama could pull the repenting bit off as sincere, half the population wouldn't believe him. The point is, that is what politicians do when running for office, no matter what their religion. You do not become president by being nice on the campaign trail. Only in the movies.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  3. John

    Maybe it's time for the Christian right to lead by example? Just a thought...

    December 10, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  4. Peter

    I guess Mr. Metaxes wishes Mr. Obama had been nicer to Romney. Dream on, loser.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  5. The Question

    Who is this author?

    December 10, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      Obviously... a fool.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • sam

      'Author' seems a little generous...

      December 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  6. Barbara

    What about them demonizing the poor or working poor by calling them lazy bums, welfare queens among other things. Seems to me they need to clean up their backyard too. Until then maybe they shouldn't be preaching to the rest of us. At least we believe in trying to get people healthcare even for the poor, all they seem to care about is money and THIER rights.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • imABeliever

      "At least we believe in trying to get people healthcare even for the poor, all they seem to care about is money and THIER rights."

      I'm sure that as a Christian Mr. Metaxis is concerned about the poor. But it immoral for the gov't to steal other people money in order to help the poor. This is wealth redistribution (ie., stealing). the Biblical model is for individuals and charities to reach into their own pockets to help the poor.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Barbara

      imABeliever..... Stay out of my pocket then. The tax breaks to the rich, child tax credits, oil companies, fricking dancing horses, NASCAR, and the list go on. Thats stealing from all of us!!

      December 10, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  7. theoriginaljames

    Like most Christians, Mr. Metaxes is self-centered, holds gaseous opinions, takes himself in too high an esteem and others not sufficiently respectful. Hypocrite, liar. I could go on.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • SAMe

      In other words, he sounds human.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  8. John

    Eric Metaxas is a hypocrite, not a Christian.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  9. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from "divinity".

    So yeah, keep praying, because an omniscient omnipotent God has no clue what he wants to do, and actually changes his mind as some critter on a backwater planet talks to himself. Ok. (meds at 2PM).

    December 10, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  10. Diemos Mayo

    You're kidding, right? We're talking about national politics, not some little league baseball game. If you're so concerned that we have to reduce the amount of vitriolic speech in our national discourse, I would advise that you start with the Republican party.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  11. Ricky

    Could you believe this guy? He is blaming Obama of running a negative campaign? Have you heard your party talking? What a phony this guy, why do we even listen to this non-elected mórons when it comes to politics? Churches should start paying taxes if they want to be political; No representation without taxation!

    December 10, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • John Atkinson

      Have you heard of Freedom of Speech.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • What a maroon!

      Yeah, the problem is them commie leftist socialist islamofascist n-lovers. We rightie-tighties NEVER say anything divisive.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Knowledge

      @John Atkinson: Freedom of speech is what is going on .. what is your point. We can't disagree ?!

      December 10, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • imABeliever

      He's not a church, he's a private citizen.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • sam

      Are you sure, Captain Obvious? I thought he looked sort of church-shaped.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  12. JustAO

    "...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..."

    Spare me please!

    Over the past 30+ years these so called 'fat-cats' tanked our economy slowly with creating this bubble, trying to make sure those who practice gambling on wall street make sure main street is blamed and pays for it. Check the economic record books. Lobbyists for big corporations telling voters and congress that the rich need to be protected at the expense of middle class in the form of tax cuts and deregulated unethical businesses in order to spur prosperity for all IS A MYTH. Every economist can base all tangible data and evidence on conservative economic theory is a failure.

    So keep spouting out I'm a christian and our president isn't acting like one when all of us really hear is, "i'm a middle-aged rich white GOP guy who never believed a black man should ever be president and the poor are just jealous."

    December 10, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • imABeliever

      way to play the race card.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • imABeliever

      "i'm a middle-aged rich white GOP guy who never believed a black man should ever be president and the poor are just jealous"

      You, sir, provided a perfect example (exhibit A, if you will) of the type of demonization the author talks about. The author pointed a few instances of uncivil behavior, you immediately in knee jerk fashion start accusing him of being a rich, white, and republican, when there is no evidence that he is rich or republican. Does making him white make him a racist? That is exactly what demonization is. If you can't answer intelligently an opponents arguments, you paint a picture of him as the devil himself, and then everyone can write off what he has to say.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • imABeliever

      This bothered me so much I had to come back and post on it again. Either that or I have v. short memory span.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • E=MC2

      imAbeliever..... comments from people like the poster, fail to understand the sheer hypocrisy of their own statements. Yes, if you have conservative leanings and are white, you are by definition a racist. Of course they believe Jesus would be a Democrat. That's how out of touch so many Americans are with the message Christ shared.Still any true believer will acknowledge their own failings and shortnesses, yet are thankful for grace. One of the many themes Hollywood has shown us through the movies is the poor individual who is mocked and laughed at, yet we know that person is good. It is an age old theme. the majority, whom mock, think they know best and in typical mob mentality yell and jeer. Christ was very clear that to follow Him, expect this to happen to you. Even on the cross, He cried out to the Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing. Stay on the road less travel that is straight and narrow.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  13. Just call me Lucifer

    I'm gonna set this god fearing idiot on fire... only because he loves me as his invisible non-existent god demands.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  14. saganhill

    Author is a NUT. Praying does no good. Doing so is one of the most condescending, lazy things a religious nut ever does.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  15. lol at this guy

    Partisan, self-indulgent garbage masquerading as thoughtful discussion and earnest appeal.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  16. E=MC2

    The author speaks of truth and patience. He speaks of his love for God and desire to keep His commandments. He wants to see civility and a respect for differing opinions. He shows tolerance. Yet so many of you come out with guns blazing calling this man a moron. You belittle his faith, but probably subscribe to the principle of "telorance". As hard as it is to accept this notion, it was the Judeo-Christian principles that allowed spiteful individuals like you to rant on with your hate and intollerance. It was the love of God that allowed an individual such as the author to love his enemies and even pray for them. Which side do you think would be better for mankind? Hypocritical idealists who champion tolerance, but only as far as when it agrees with their opinions or humble people who follow a God whose very purpose was to forgive the very sinful nature you display and in fact, we all display? As our world gets smaller, we see more people self indulge while trying to maintain an air of compassion and tolerance. People like you have no "skin" in this game, yet feel your precious opinions show that you are hip and cool and part of the new culture. The Bible is quite clear about the progression of man. We will feel like we are more in control of our own destiny while all the time fooling even ourselves into societal suicide. Through it all, God does consider you, me and everyone else His children. Amazing love.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • sam

      Did you mean to post this twice? I mean, it's just as deep and meaningful the second time, really. Just checking.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • What a maroon!

      The reply button is lower right, mr. niceness.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      I'm gonna set you and your family on fire for all eternity, just because I can. By the way, your god doesn't exist, and your book of rules in a lie. I'm the devil, and I approve this message.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Blaine

      The author does not speak of truth and tolerance. He speaks of HIS truth and HIS level of tolerance. He calls the president out for the message of his campaign, but not Romney. He says anti-abortionists are subjected to attack, but nothing of the screaming Christians who verbally abuse women as they seek a legal abortion. He laments the "attacks" on those same Christians denouncing and demonizing gay Americans (I'm pretty sure bigot is an accurate label). What has me even responding (I usually leave reponses to my very capable and like-minded posters) is that I want anyone who reads this to know that as a Christian, I don't buy anything (including the book) this person is selling. No one person, organization, movement, etc. speaks for all people. And, no matter how loud the minority in the movement (read religious zealots like our dear friend the author), the majority of Christians do not close their minds to great questions and struggles of our time. We have better things to do (feeding the hungry, supporting the unsupported, building communities) than to try to sell our books and impress the President. Mr. Metaxis – get off the podium, and get into your community and get to work. No pressure!

      December 10, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • E=MC2

      What a bunch of angry people. It really is quite sad. What tops the bill is the idea that someone feels they are insulting you by calling you "nice guy". People who oppose abortion should not intimidate woman, this is true. They should feel free to speak their mind, but intimidate no. Satan....I didn't know you had internet access. Actually you have nothing over any true believer. But then again, you knew that. By the way, you are doing quite well in this world, but that was expected. Still, we all the ending to this story.

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

      Yes, we all know the ending to this story. "MY GOD IS SOOOO GONNA MAY YOU PAAAAAAY."

      December 10, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  17. Vinny

    It would be scary if the President ran this country based on what desert-dwelling stone age men thought and preached. Even though he's Christian, the President believes in the rule of law and does not push or force his personally religion on others. Religion should not be part of legislation. Otherwise, we would be no better than Hamas.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • maine liberal

      If we were to be more bible like it would solve the divorce issue:

      And the man that commits adultery with another man's wife, even he that commits adultery with his neighbor's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
      Leviticus 20:10

      December 10, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • niknak

      There is a caveat in there that makes that not apply to white men.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Knowledge

      Iron age desert people ... get it strait ... 😉

      December 10, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  18. Eli

    Just one more religious hypocrite.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  19. nvmature

    This guy-and I have never heard of him--is clearly promoting a book or trying to advance a career. To blame the meanness of this past campaign on Obama is quite a reach. If he truly believes in Christian fairness, he ought to at least point fingers in the right direction. Romney lied and lied and lied again. Is that good for kids?

    December 10, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Johnnie

      Thank you for making the only point I wanted to make to this man who should take some time to examine the teachings of the Man he professes to follow. Jesus was all about health care, and lying was codified in the 10 commandments

      December 10, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • E=MC2

      Johnny, before commenting on the Bible, perhaps it would help to open it first and read something. "Jesus was all about health care"? What a lost world when people like you speak "the truth"....

      December 10, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  20. fsjunkie

    I sincerely hope this author doesn't make the mistake of thinking that his words and opinions are above any of the others posted in response here. If any one of us wandered into a church and heard this rant delivered as a sermon, we would have no issues. It would fit the setting, and quite frankly, the expectations. It is obnoxiously out of place here, framed in address to the President of the United States. He is not one of your parishioners.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Yuppers

      For someone who claims humility, he is incredibly egotistical.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:33 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.