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. Bethany

    So what about the people spreading outright lies about this president? What about when Romney made a wink-and-nod at birthers and those who claim the President is a secret Muslim who hates America? Where was your self-righteous need to speak up then?

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

      That was all ok, because those people were white male xtians doing it.

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

      Of course it wasn't okay. Sin is sin, no matter who does it. I will admit that I feel ashamed that fellow Christians backed a flip-floppity, anti-Christ (Romney kinda didn't believe in Jesus Christ...).

      December 10, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  2. amit

    Dear Mr Hypocrite, Bush junior killed thousands in Iraq who had done us no harm, including over 4000 of our own brave young soldiers. Was he inspired by your ideas of loving thy enemy? Were you disappointed in him? Did you write an article condemning him? NO, YOU DID NOT. But when Prez Obama said a few things against the fat cats, that really hurt you. Problem with today's religion, and why more and more people are turning atheist, is people like you, who claim to be religious but do not follow God, in any way or form. There is no similarity between what you are preaching and what Jesus preached. Unfortunately, you are neither the first, nor the last person who is taking Lord's name in vane.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Mark

      Beautiful, Amit. The hypocrites are incredibly strong within religion.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • O'Dumbama

      President Bush was a Liberator. He liberated People of Afghanistan and Iraq from Dictator While President Obama is a Debtator. He has indebted People of America with $6 Trillion in Debt.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • JohnoT

      All the fury about these supposedly different viewpoints.

      Obama and Bush have almost exactly the same viewpoints on involvement in foreign wars= both strongly in favor. And the same viewpoints on government intervention in the economy = both strongly in favor.

      We forget George Bush sent us all the tax refund checks for $600 – long before the economy even crashed, he was all about using debt as a tool to spur the economy.

      And lest we forget, only the 2008 campaign version of Obama was against foreign involvement in wars – he's in Afghanastan 'to win', he's involved us in other actions around the world. Historically, he's no isolationist or dove, that's for certain.

      But you all are teed up to believe there is this vast difference. And who can tell you otherwise – nobody.

      As far as tolerance goes – by golly, there are very few tolerant people in this world. The pro-gay lobby is not tolerant of the christian right. The christian right – not so tolerant of gays.

      Tolerance is a pipe dream in our society.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Hill

      Amit, do you know that he did not? If you don't, then you must, in good faith, state that.

      December 11, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  3. When George Bush lied and said Jesus told him to start the Iraq War

    Where were you then?

    Why didn't you open your fat yap then?

    December 10, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • BobbaFett

      Because he never said that, you disgusting pile of goat phlegm.

      December 10, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Romnesia

      Well it wasn't based on facts.

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

      How do you know he didn't?

      December 11, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  4. rickincambridge

    Don't you just love the endless pictures of Obby with the halo background? Try googling anti-christ pictures and you'll see similar representations.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Primewonk

      What is this "Obby" you speak of?

      December 10, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Romnesia

      Dick, Yet I'll bet that you went all weak at the knees over the weeping statue.

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

      You mean Obi Juan Kinobi, from Star Wars?
      Dude, get out from you mom's basement and turn off Fix news.
      Your side lost, and is going to lose again because of hate filled racists like you.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Thanks for the deep insight rick.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  5. Fred

    All religion is dumb.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • rickincambridge

      Thanks for the deep insight fred

      December 10, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • lynne

      then you should maybe browse away from the belief blog, there, champ.

      December 10, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  6. juliedolce

    While I agree that the attack on the rich who built this country should have been the nail in this president's coffin, Mourdock and Akin et al are indeed the enemies of women. They are dangerous and I have zero love for them.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • jboh

      The rich didn't build this country. Working folks did. The rich have been acting like European royalty. I remember the rich crying that " no man is worth $10/hr, yet see no problem w/tax-free $10K/hr. Rich people didn't settle the frontier, they got fat on indentured servants labors, if in the North, and on slaves' labor if Southern.

      December 10, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  7. Think4yourself

    Putting aside that the fact that you singled out the president, solely because your opinion would have little or no interest if applied to any other candidate or party. Forgetting that you some how manufactured a similarity between George W and President Obama and believed that you still maintained some creditability in his eyes. I have a verse to share...
    Matthew 22 "Jesus – Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" No pressure.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Manny

      THANK YOU!, for bringing up the other side. Both side played politics and the author himself did too. Imagine what he thought of Mr. Romney before he was leading the ticket. MMMM, involved in a cult maybe, and now he is all good, right? Maybe we all need to stop pointing fingers and do some repenting ourselves!

      December 10, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Corey

      You are missing the point, Ross. He is not arguing about taxes here.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  8. Sunosa

    What! Are you kidding me? I can't believe I actually read the whole article without throwing my IPad off from the top floor of my office building How dare you call everyone else unfaithful that do not believe in what you believe. Who anoint you the judge of human? I love when you reference William Wilberforce, and Martin Luther king Jr. Oh, you left someone out, Nelson Mandela and others. This is the problem when you mix politics with religion. Thank you for your insult. Go back to your role of being a Christian. Judgement await all off us in the appropriate place and time..

    December 10, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  9. MerryChrist-mas!

    Well said, Eric. It is perfectly reasonable to spur a fellow Christian on toward righteousness and repentance, through faith in Jesus Christ. I commit to daily praying for our President and for the brave folks like you who put themselves in the pathway of bloggers' ridicule daily.

    The gospel is for everyone -the poor, the rich, the young, the old, those that think they don't need religion, and those that think they do. For those who see need of a savior and for those who think Christians to be foolish. Its for the people in the pews at church, and the mockers and ambivalent passers-by. Its for both me and the readers.

    To Jesus Christ be all glory. Happy birthday Jesus!

    December 10, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Huebert

      You do know that the date of Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus's birth, right?

      December 10, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • niknak

      Sorry, but I think your babble says jeebus was born in the summer, like in July.
      That is IF he even existed, which many have their doubts, including me.

      And why do you even need him, or god for that matter?
      Why can't you just be a stand up guy (or gal) because you want to be one, not because you are "commanded?"

      December 10, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      No. The gospel is for those that think they need it.

      December 10, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • lionlylamb

      The orange crates full of lemons are not found out and are leaned to be placidly placed among other orange crates filled with oranges but such crates filled unduly with an uncalled nomenclature of another untagged or wrongly labeled commodity will most always be placed differently so not to be sold unwarranted as being an other than what is designated upon the crates wordage. In other words, do not lean upon a crated word yet look ever always into a crate's commodity to see the crate's abundance worthiness for making sure of what is labeled is truly found within to be the real fruited sounding of the crated righteous word.

      December 10, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Scott M.

      The problem is not with Christian principles per se, it is the sad fact that most who claim to follow those principles are full of crap. They espouse them when it suits their personal needs, and ignore them when it does not. It's easy to claim you are a Christian; it's much harder to actually be one. That to me is the biggest problem. And I certainly do not claim to be a Christian.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  10. Chris

    What about all of those on the right who didn't "act Christian" as you describe in the article? Did you make the conscious decision to exclude then to make this appear a one-sided issue or can we expect a separate article from you about their behavior?

    December 10, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  11. Honey Badger Dont Care

    “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.”

    Really? When your opponents are spreading ridiculous lies about you are you supposed to stand by and just smile? B S, he fought back and won. That is the American way. He didn’t use the same tactics as the republitards, he fought the good fight and people saw that and voted for him. This Eric Metaxas guy is a joke.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  12. Blessed are the Cheesemakers

    Eric Metaxes,

    George W. Bush was really good at "scorched earth" politics and definately helped divide this nation, did you tell him his actions were "not presidential, much less Christian, and because the president openly professes a Christian faith," did you "feel you must speak about this."

    I bet you didn't. You argreed with his politics on what you consider the christian issues so you kept your mouth shut on his tactics. Get off your high horse.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • paul

      Right on. I was thinking of posting the same thing. I will always remember Bush's "You are either with us or against us". He didn't just divide the country he divided the world.

      December 10, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • niknak

      @ Paul,

      I was even worse then that, he said "you are either with us or with the terrorists."

      Then they went out and did a McCarthyism on anyone who even remotely dissagreed with them, like the Dixie Chicks.
      Then even went after Cat Stevens, because he converted to islam and mentioned a few negative things about the US, all of which are true. That is a guy who gives almost all his income to the poor, btw.

      This Eric guy is just a religious scammer. And a pompous one to boot.

      December 10, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  13. Jerry

    Here we go again. I wont even touch and what your boy said about Obama instead I'll say that Romney giving Millions to the LDS church so they can BAPTIZE THE DEAD and build "TEMPLES" all over the earth isnt charity. We need to hear from you a straight answer. EITHER your Pro Life or your for Individual Freedom. Remember that if you answer Life than we can start looking at things we dont like about you.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  14. Jeff

    Another right-winger who bemoans the tactics that the right perfected when someone on the other side has the gall to use the same tactics. Unless Mr. Metaxas can show me where he chastised Mr. Bush after the 2004 election for doing the EXACT SAME THING for which he chastises Mr. Obama now, this is just partisan hackery.

    The difference, if you're wondering, is that Mr. Obama probably will actually read the book and has the capacity at least to consider the opposing viewpoint. He won't be convinced, I'm sure, but he doesn't suffer from the same cognitive dissonance as most of the rest of them.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  15. PeterD

    President Reagan = Dynamic, President Bush = Corrageous, President Clinton = Flamboyant, President GWB = Compassionate Conservative and We now have President Obama = Total Failure.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Jerry

      Tell me what GWB was compassionate about and what he conserved.

      December 10, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • AllThatsLeft

      President Obama= Winner of second term! GOP= Clueless dying party of mouth breathers who won't stop whining about their loss. RIP GOP...

      December 10, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      Do elaborate.

      December 10, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Downtown_Guy

      Fox News viewer trolling?

      December 10, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • awaysaway

      Thanks for the in depth analysis of the issues. Sound bites work for the Right. But in the election we had facts and substance eventually win over on this type of nonsense.

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

      You have given us a great example of a delusional, TEA clown loser. Thanks for the great self-discription.

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

      This supports the argument that conservatives, be they left or right wing) are psychologically predisposed to want simple answers. Attempts to simplify one’s world view don’t get much simpler than that.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • yogi

      Dumbness glorified.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • farside6262

      The fact that you cannot spell, Peter D, speaks volumes about your insights.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  16. lionlylamb

    The predilection of behavioral stardom does commit one to an unusually engendered missionary-like traversing of societal admonishments meant to appease and yes please all mannerisms of publically influential commodities.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • niknak

      Hey cowardlylion, at least your posts are shorter.
      Still all babble with no point, just like your stone age book of magic spells.

      December 10, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • idyli

      Your big words don't make your ramblings any more coherent. Step away from the thesaurus.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  17. 1nd3p3nd3nt

    the right keeps confusing what they say obama says with what obama actually says.
    it's unfortunate.

    he did say they cling to guns and religion. it may not have been far off : (

    December 10, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • niknak

      It was 100% spot on.
      They cling to their babbles while maintaining a small muntions dump of high powered guns in their basements.
      I know cause I work with fundies who have tens of thousands of dollars of guns in their homes.

      Because nothing shows how much you love jeebus then using your gun to kill another living thing.....

      December 10, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • farside6262

      @ niknak....Amen, brother (or sister)!

      December 10, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
  18. Smokey

    It's awfully arrogant to go around thinking that YOUR values are THE values. There's a lot of people out there who think Christianity is so straightforward and obvious, everyone should just be believing that "literal truth". If that's the case, why are there hundreds of different denominations, maybe even thousands? Not everyone who reads the Bible is identical. People have different experiences, different priorities, different situations, different lives and the Bible speaks to us all differently. Perhaps what's important to one will be less so to another. There are some Biblical passages, for instance, that the wealthy and powerful wish to ignore, and others they wish to emphasize. There are verses which would speak more to somebody in a desperate situation. Reading the Bible is a co-operative venture between scripture and a person: it can never happen the same way twice, any more than two people can be identical or you yourself can be unchanged between two different moments in time. This is the nature of text, even (especially!) sacred text. For the author to suggest that the President "repent" of having a different view of Christianity than the author is preposterous. The President, and the author, and you and I all ought to repent, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," not because of whatever doctrinal differences we may have.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • NClaw441

      Doesn't everyone believe that his values are THE values? Otherwise, why hold the values, if think they are or might be wrong. Of course, there is a way to present one's values without belittling those of others, even though you disagree. The writer appears to be saying that if you claim to hold Christian values, you should abide by them or expect some criticism. That seems like a fair statement.

      December 10, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  19. PaganScorp

    Magic underpants...nough said.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Krabz

      I think they're only "magic" to you.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  20. Denise

    It will be a great day for our country when superstition such as Christianity has negligible influence on our president. "Prayer breakfasts" are disgusting. Separate. Get your damn religion out of politics.

    And Eric, your book sucks big time. Nice grab at promoting it, though. You'll probably get some more bucks from the same suckers that fall for your religion. Luckily I didn't have to pay for the copy that I read.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • { ! }

      If you add a drop of pure water to a gallon of sewage, what do you have? A gallon of sewage, of course. If you take religion out of politics what do you get? A gallon of sewage. Do you imagine that everyone will become a nice guy when religion is gone?

      December 10, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Julia of the Mountains

      Denise, You are what's digusting about this country. You aren't tolerant but a mere bully. If it doesn't agree with your beliefs, then damn them all, ha?This country was founded upon Christian principals. Get over it and let whomever wants to talk religion, do it!

      December 10, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Huebert

      @ { ! }

      "Do you imagine that everyone will become a nice guy when religion is gone?"

      No, I'm not that hopeful. What I do imagine though is that certain issues, gay marriage, teaching intelligent design in schools, and the prohibition of stem cell research, will evaporate. This is because supporting these issues is untenable without religion.

      December 10, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Brent

      Denise is right. Just because religion has infiltrated politics for so many centruies, doesn't make it right, but it certainly adds to the feeling of religious privilege. This country was NOT founded on Christianity as many Christians would love to believe. The only way to have true freedom of religion is to make the governemnt free from it. Nobody is trying to take away your right to talk about religion, we just need to remove the privilege of getting the governemtn to endorse any.

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

      "This country was founded upon Christian principals."
      Amazing how many christians say that yet none of them have ever given any examples of what these christian principles are in the first place, much less how the USA was founded upon them.

      December 10, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • farside6262

      Hmmm...founded on"Christian principles". That is dubious and could be all over the place with semantics. Fact is, Jefferson and his cronies were agnostics and/or deists and big supporters of separation of church and state.
      Guess that religion-based home schooling is letting you down again.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Nathan

      Denise I am just curious but did you even read the whole book? Guessing you are referencing his Bonhoeffer book.

      For the record atheism has become its own religion these days. So shouldn't one say to the atheist get "your" religion out just as much to the Muslim or Christian?

      December 11, 2012 at 7:04 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.