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. yanni

    Does this guy actually written a book? because he rambled too much for a writer not to express his dimmed moral clarity to ask a president who has been tortured and damned to be un-American by his Christian friends to repent. It is a laughable hypocrisy of you. On the contrary, you and your friends need to repent if you have consciousness.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Lisa

      He may have written a book, but that doesn't mean it's a good one.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  2. Mennoknight

    I am praying for this President too.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  3. tony


    What an arrogant ess oh bee, who thinks that his god gives him the right to criticize only those he personally dislikes.

    The sooner we rid our less intelligent population of religious following , and our more intelligent, but self serving, self-styled religious leaders, the better the world will become.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  4. bob


    December 10, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  5. Gregg

    You know the old saying in War, if god is on our side we can't lose.(I think this is supposed to make the guy/gal in a foxhole feel better?) Well, if this saying is true, then god did not want the republican party in office even with all of their so called christian principals, right? He probably saw right through the "right to life" and "traditional marriage" labels for what they are, politicians using god to get elected.....

    December 10, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  6. My POV

    I'm disappointed in many of the comments here. True, both sides used "scorched earth" practices. I don't think this article is saying the republicans were better than the democrats during the election. What I believe he is trying to say is that President Obama won and it is his job to lead this nation (not just those who voted for him) and that to do this he should recognize the offenses he made to people who did not agree with him. In essence to be the "bigger man" and love those who do not agree with him on issues but do his best to work for their good as well as his own. (aka not demonize them or make them scape goats for his own benefit) (Many politicians do this but don't we want people in power that have higher standards?)

    December 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Rich

      Exactly right. You clearly have no place on this board – you're thinking open-minded and accurately. BOTH parties are to blame, but the ones in charge NOW are the only ones who can fix anything.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • jayross495

      Yes, President Obama is magnanimous and has for the last four years represented all of America. If you can't be inclusive don't project your flaws on the President. Your lack of tolerance is so typical of the small tent GOP. The President gave a voice to all of America. He did not condemn pro-life advocates he condemned their insistence of trying to silence someone else. Got the difference? Not the person, but the action was condemned because he supports the pro-life persons as well. I think you GOP members have to stop being so small minded, exclusive and most of all simple minded. Perhaps if you follow your Christian values and work towards the right to life and do something about gun laws somebody may take you guys seriously, in the interim your colleagues are making millions through your gun manufacturing.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Rich

      What the heck are you talking about? I voted for him – I am not a GOP member. Has it really come to the point that when I can see the short-comings and disappointments in one party I must automatically belong to the other?

      December 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • My POV

      I'm not a GOP member and can barely stand hard core party followers on either side. That you jumped to conclusions is sad and shows that your ideas are clouded by your own misconceptions. If people continue to blame the "other side" or things that happened in the past and can't be changed, we will never be able to deal with things in the present or future. It is important to have a good memory so that we do not repeat past mistakes but is necessary to temper the memory with humility and an open mind, knowing that neither side has the perfect ideas but together the nation can the best chance to find the best path.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  7. Gabriel R.

    I don't recall the president or his campaign every intimating that Romney was a socialist, was un-American (or wasn't even an American), and was out to destroy the country.

    Your bias is showing.

    December 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Rich

      NO, they intimated that he was responsible for a woman's death, that he doesn't care about the average Americans, just the rich, he recklessly endangers dogs. Please! Both sides used horrible tactics – the fact that you're so attached to your guy that you can't even acknowledge it is exactly the problem that needs fixing. Hopefully President Obama is the man he says he is and that many of us hope he is and he'll rise about all of this nonsense and actually try to mend fences, not just continue to blame the Republicans.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Sailor101

      No President Obama's campaign did not hint at those things because it was not true, but his campaign did a lot of other negative things (both sides did) but you are missing the point of the articule and are trying to divert attention away from what the articule speaks to.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • concerned

      I don't remember anyone affiliated with either campaign making those remarks. Those were made by third parties, often uninformed and childish third parties but in no way endorsed by the major political candidates.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  8. Chris

    Did you not see how the Republicans behaved during the election?

    December 10, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  9. Brent

    I guess the President is the only person who needs to repent. The other politicians must all be above reproach according to Mr. Metaxas. One thing I have trouble with is claiming to hold everyone to a similar standard and call one person out. More backhanded politics under the guise of religious truth. Hard to see why the country is more secular.

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

      Another arrogant ess oh bee, who thinks that his god gives him the right to criticize only those he personally dislikes.

      The sooner we rid our less intelligent population of religious following , and our more intelligent, but self serving, self-styled religious leaders, the better the world will become.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Patricia Kraybill

      You make an excellent point. Its my observation that President Obama has shown "love" and respect to those who have been extremely rude and obnoxious to him and about him. In fact, he is a roll model for " turn the other cheek".

      December 10, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  10. JAB62

    Sad book promotion.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  11. Eric

    The divided nation that the author refers to has become so obvious in the last 5 0r 6 years. We are so polarized as a nation. Many on the left seem to think that ONLY republicans are racist, that ONLY republicans are greedy, that ONLY republicans are liars, that ONLY republicans are self seeking, and that ONLY republicans closed minded.

    I am really not too sure anymore if the left really believes that or if they are just spouting off because most republicans are Christians and don't retaliate, making them an easy target. Serious, read through the messages and record how many negative things are said by the left about the right then how many are said by the right about the left. I really feel like the left is more hate filled than any right winger that I have seen. We all need to find common ground instead of slinging insults at each other.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Peter

      It may be because Republican politicians have so often been caught using derogatory phrases for non-whites and emailing racist jokes to each other.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Madtown

      Both sides are equal opportunity haters.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Lisa

      Both sides have their share of haters, true. However, it seems that the left tends to hate people for what they do, while the right tends to hate people for what they are. That's a subtle difference, but a big one.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  12. John

    Here is what Obama has done for our country: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpAOwJvTOio

    Love it.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  13. Gary Lee Smith

    As the saying goes, "Denial ain't just a river in Egypt". Most of the abortions in this country are procured by Christian women. In the push comes to shove real world, you know, the one we all live in, an abortion is the only way out when faced with the enormous costs of raising a child on the working wages of most low income women. Perhaps the need for birth control and education for lower income women would have been a better topic for this man of the cloth to tackle. Oh right, his church is against that too. Irrelevant much?

    December 10, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • SAMe

      That's why we need a Savior. We're all hypocrites , we're all human. Thanks Jesus!

      December 10, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Eric

      Funny thing Gary. Most people in America will say that they are Christian but not even step inside of a church.

      Your stats that most women in America having abortions are Christian are very deceptive and really don't reveal the entire story. A "Christian" is someone who is active in their church, who believes that Jesus lived and then died on the cross and then rose from the dead to ascend into heaven for the purpose of making us right before God. And finally one who confesses with their mouth these beliefs (Romans 10:9-10). Calling someone who might acknowledge some of this a Christian is wrong. James 2:19 says that even the demons of hell believe that there is one God and they shudder in fear. So the fact that one might acknowledge some of these simple facts are far from saying that they are truly Christians.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Faithandworks

      "Most of the abortions in this country are procured by Christian women." Please provide statistics for this statement. It may be true that many professing the Christian faith are getting abortions. Professing a faith does not make you what you profess. James said, (Paraphrased) "You say you have faith. Show me your faith by what you do and I'll believe you." Faith without works is dead.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • niknak

      @ faithlessworks,

      So funny how you require proof of his statement about xtian woman, yet you won't supply us with any proof of your god.
      You fundies make the statement that god exists, well, show us some proof.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • LinSea

      That is a ridiculous argument, niknak, and you know it. You cannot prove that one claim is false and another is true when the procedures for proving the veracity of either claim are determined by differing methodologies. I cannot use mathematical theory and equations to prove that Shakespeare was the greatest writer in history, just as the means by which I know in my heart that there is a God are completely different from the means by which I would know abortion statistics.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  14. Amniculi

    I think sometime, if the prize is important enough, and the stakes are high enough, it is important to win at any cost. WWII is a perfect example of this. Though the campaign was ugly, on both sides, I truly believe a Romney presidency would have been detrimental to our struggling economy. The president and his staff did what had to be done and I have no problem with that.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Andrew C.

      This seems like a gross oversimplification that is borderline irreverent. The losses and the positive outcomes in the two instances are so disparate in magnitude that it's hard to imagine someone offering this up in any serious discussion.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Amniculi

      Lol, if you came here expecting serious discussion, you came to the wrong place, my friend. This is CNN's Belief Blog where everything is a joke. As far as my comment goes, there may be a difference in magnitudes, but the principle is the same – sometimes results are more important than how you play the game.

      December 11, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  15. Kyle

    I find it interesting that the author of this article is calling for Obama to repent for this actions because he didn't live up to his professed faith's values. Where is his call to Romney, Ryan, McCain, or Palin? These individuals took on the mantle of Christian values in their campaigns but never lived up to those values, even once. Holding a person accountable when they failed their faith's values one of two times is appropriate but it is glaringly noticeable that he is not even trying to hold those accountable who have never lived up their faith's values.

    No pressure...just pointing out the hypocrisy.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Joe

      It makes you wonder why Mr. Metaxas feels that Obama needs to seek forgiveness and the others don't. What is different about Obama?

      December 10, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Adam Alias

      The difference is that Obama is president and the others you mentioned are not.

      Additionally, it's obvious to most open minded people that most of the hating comes from the left and not the right.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  16. Huebert

    "I also said that those of us with a traditionally biblical view of se.xuality are sometimes demonized as bigots, but we must love even those who call us bigots."

    It might behoove the author to examine his biblical views of se.xuality, and determine if they actually are bigoted. Any view that would seek to deny a civil right, marriage, to one group of people, while extending it to another is bigoted. Weather or not this bigotry is supported by the bible is irrelevant.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  17. Justin

    I will not be clicking on many more of CNN's suggested articles. This was a complete waste of time and to promote this fools one sided beliefs makes me question CNN's

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

      Ditto! I want my minutes back.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  18. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from "divinity".

    We need biblical marriage. Women are property, and just as Solomon and David we need hundreds of wifies, and concubines.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Robb L

      The correct quote is "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". Authur C. Clarke, science fiction wirter – I can't tell you what either his poticial or religious leanings were, but I can't imagine he'd be pleased with your use of his line in this context.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  19. nvmature

    The President showed Christian constraint (or some kind of restraint) when he stated he would read the moron's book-as opposed to thump him on his head with it. Biden decided to take the guy's picture to add to his collection of folk who speak marlarkey.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  20. Ian Johnson

    Had Romney won, would this article have been written about him? Did the Republicans not employ the most vicious tactics? One of which was to simply block anything the President attempted to do. This article is about religion. It's another example of all the Christian whiners who are starting to wake up to the realization that their power to influence is over. Their version of morality is over. There are enough people of voting age that realize that morality is not owned by religion. Repent? Repent? Sounds to me like your spell doesn't work any more. Bye Bye.

    December 10, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • imABeliever

      this is another "i'm no worse than the other guy" argument. It doesn't hold water. Of course there are many repubs that do bad things, but it doesn't give a pass to Obama.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Adam Alias

      Actually Ian, most of the lies came from the Obama camp. Lies AND manipulation of the voting block held up by the predominantly liberal media. It's a shame. The nation lost here folks. We will recover in time, but we had a chance to vote in a true proven leader, or go with a popularity contest. America chose the popularity contest.

      Oh well....

      December 10, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • imABeliever

      "Their version of morality is over"

      Modern society's notion of human rights are based on the bible. Such as right to life, freedom, property rights, etc.

      Be careful for what you ask for, because you just might get it, as the saying goes.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Rich

      Wow, you're right. Why didn't I think of that? After all, there were never any bad articles written about President Bush were there? Get a clue!

      December 10, 2012 at 3:09 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.