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. Nietodarwin

    Evangelical christian "faith" IS THE SAME as Taliban Islam "faith" Penn says it well;

    “What I have a problem with is not so much religion or god, but faith. When you say you believe something in your heart and therefore you can act on it, you have completely justified the 9/11 bombers. You have justified Charlie Manson. If it's true for you, why isn't it true for them? Why are you different? If you say "I believe there's an all-powerful force of love in the universe that connects us all, and I have no evidence of that but I believe it in my heart," then it's perfectly okay to believe in your heart that Sharon Tate deserves to die. It's perfectly okay to believe in your heart that you need to fly planes into buildings for Allah.”
    _ Penn Jillette

    December 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      You are starting to use logic and common sense. Please stop.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  2. Jeb Bush

    All the author has to do is listen to an hour of Faux News and right wing hate radio to realize he's asking the wrong person to repent.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  3. Bishop Hairy Palms

    This wing nut calls his fellow Americans his "enemies" and pretends to "love" them by telling them to repent to his imaginary sky fairy.

    Where does CNN find these nut jobs?

    December 10, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  4. Jonathan Laden

    Count me among the many who find this article disingenuous, to say the least. The incivility (and outright lies) that have greeted this president at every turn for the past four years... It would take a saint to never respond with anger or brass tacks. Such a saint would stand no chance in our political environment. Condemning your political opponents for failing to unilaterally disarm is interesting, I suppose, but not worthy of the morality section of any website.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:33 pm |

    What a bunch of bunk! God wants us to be 'understanding' but He also didn't make us fools! The good reverend didn't mention the unprecedented attacks from the GOP and supporters which loudly and proudly proclaim their "christianity". These so-called "people of faith" never seemed to hold back on their dog-whistle politics and stances which certainly DID need to be responded to in direct terms. Wonder why Mr. Metaxas doesn't rail against them and their bullying tactics??!! Bullies, of course, don't like to be punched back in the mouth which is exactly what President Obama did - so now we hear all of their whining! This article is just more of the same!

    December 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  6. Russ

    Very judgemental article...but hey. Same goes for everybody... I mean, the GOP really has shown their Christian colors the last several years...

    December 10, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • Siara Delyn

      It's good that Jesus rose from the dead, 'cause otherwise He'd be rolling in His grave watching the GOP.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  7. Jeebus Cheebus

    This guy is just a third rate right wing wind bag.

    Otherwise he'd be peddling his drivel to the lemmings at Faux News.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  8. Ryan

    This is exactly why more and more people are turning against religion. This pompous idiot wants to call out for Obama to repent? What about Romney? Lies came from both side. Your side lost – get over it. CNN – stop pushing these nut jobs on us as news.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Siara Delyn

      Exactly. There's no justice here– no sense that what applies to Obama must also apply to Romney.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:29 pm |

      @Ryan: Amen!!

      December 10, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  9. Siara Delyn

    So, this implies that you think Romney does to others as he would have them do, right?

    Did you listen to the "47% tape". If you did, as did most of the country, you are implying that:

    Romney would like to work 12 hours a day 6 days a week doing grunt work for a minimal salary.
    Romney would like to have no health benefits.
    Romney would like to share 1 bathroom with ten roommates.
    Romney would like to save money by sharing a bed with 2 or 3 random fellow workers.
    Romney would like to have his job outsourced by someone who was willing to destroy his family to make a few extra bucks.
    Romney wishes that when he made decisions all the facts concerning his decision were withheld.
    Romney would like to have his basic civil rights taken away in the name of someone else's religious tradition.

    I'm sorry but this is the silliest commentary I've ever seen in the CNN Belief segment. The basics of what we all want is respect and kindness. Romney didn't offer those.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  10. jp20sd

    This country is a sad place with a sad future. I hope future generations will laugh at this type of Christian arrogance and ignorance.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  11. Phoebe

    "This president professes his Christian faith"... Because if he didn't, people like the author would get mad at him for not being a firm enough Christian. Get a clue, America, we're not all WASPs.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • imABeliever

      so, you're saying the president isn't a Christian and that he's lying and deceiving us by telling us that he is?

      December 10, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  12. bsheresq

    Mr. Metaxas, perhaps you should start in your own back yard, as it were. Talk about people in glass houses throwing stones!! I don't recall the President or any Democrats suggesting that Mr. Romney was not a "real" American, as opposed to the numerous Republicans, including Trump and Sununu, stating the same about the President repeatedly throughout the election cycle. These comments represented a new nadir for recent American political discourse. Or how about your nominee showing his true colors and writing off half of the population of this country, the overwhelming majority of which are hard working EMPLOYED Americans, as a bunch of moochers? As you are a so-called Christian, I would think these people more worthy of your championship of their interests as opposed to the wealthy (because we all remember Jesus' impassioned defense of the rich, right?). It is not the Democratic party which is infected by the "win at all costs" mindset; that is the sole province of the Republicans, who demonstrated that no lie was too big, and no level to low to stoop to, in their unrelenting pursuit of power. Oh, and by the way, I am a woman and men like you do not get to tell me who my enemies are. I am well aware of who they are, and yes, if you would impose your will on my body, you are indeed my enemy. You, sir, are nothing but another right wing hypocrite.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • imABeliever

      Be careful, Ma'am. If you hate your enemy, then you must repent of that or you won't go to heaven.

      "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him."
      1 john 3 15

      December 10, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • imABeliever

      by the way, you don't want anyone imposing their will on your body, but why do you think it's OK for someone to impose their will on the so-called "rich"?

      December 10, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      And yet your god hates plenty,

      'do as I say, not as I do'

      December 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      The "so-called rich" are rich; look up the statistics for wealth inequality – over the last 30 years only the top few percent have done well. Capitalism is not necessarily fair; the rich benefit disproportionately from many things paid for by taxes – roads, police, education, internet, etc. so why shouldn't they pay according to their blessings? The average CEO gets 300x the average worker but clearly cannot be 300x smarter or work 300x the hours. There should obviously be a higher wage but it used to be nearer 30x, so instead of paying the workers, they're paying themselves, so why shouldn't they pay accordingly.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • bsheresq

      ImAbeliever – Please work on your reading comprehension skills. No where in my post did I suggest that I hate my enemies; I merely recognize them when I see them. Nor do I understand your reference to "imposing one's will on the so-called rich" as I made no such reference in my post. But while we are on the topic, being on the losing side of a legislative battle over taxes hardly equates to having someone intervene between a you and your doctor to deny you the right to control your own health decisions. Indeed, as an actual business owner and "so called rich" person, yes, I firmly believe we should be asked to pay a bit more as a class. But then again, I am a rare thing, a patriot with the "b*lls" to put her money where her mouth is.

      December 10, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  13. Lyfe

    "Why does CNN publish such drivel?"

    Agreed, someone should screen these articles before their posted...

    December 10, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  14. Allie

    You people are scary. We will all reap what we sow. Be careful what you sow.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Are you some kind of parrot that keeps repeating the same crap?

      December 10, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Allie


      December 10, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Jeebus Cheebus


      Then stop sewing b s!

      December 10, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Nietodarwin

      I am sowing the seeds of the end of religion. The seeds are germinating. I will "reap" my first harvest when the President no longer attends the pheucking National Prayer Breakfast. Future crops will include the end of the breakfast forever, the elimination of religious mentally ill influence in our government, and greater protection for children against the harm of religious delusion, greater protection of women's health care rights put under attack by woman hating christians, and better education in the FACT of evolution, Praise be to reason.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Allie

      But what is going to happen to you when you die?

      December 10, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Nietodarwin

      "You people are scary???" Are you kidding? Your religion, (and Islam, same thing) have been murdering people for centuries to prove "god's existence" and "god's "Love" YOU ARE SCARY, THIS LEVEL OF IGNORANCE IS SCARY, (and hurting our country.)

      December 10, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers


      When I die it will have nothing to do with your immoral, nonexistant deity.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • imABeliever

      Nieto, don't hold your breath waiting for the harvest of the end of religion. Christianity is on the rise worldwide, esp. Africa, Asia and s. america. Praise God!

      December 10, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No, it isn't, you lying poop.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      All monotheisms have long sowed their vestiges rewards in generational bigotries being ever taken up by their followers oncoming waywardness of generations onward marching in stepped rhythms never allowing the true faiths to be so told for fearing their flocks would disappear and be gone from sight! To any Christian I would like to say that your bodies are the true churches of God, not those manmade churches! Did not Christ teach you this? Flea the manmade churches before it is too late!

      December 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      LL, I know you mean well, but "flea the manmade churches"? Don't you mean "flee"? Because otherwise...

      December 10, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son,

      Yes dearly beloved, I did mean 'flee". Sometimes I write well and sometimes I can't! 🙂

      December 10, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • Akira

      You know, I really don't have a problem with what a person believes...but when a law is attempted to be passed because "the Bible is very clear", THAT is scary.
      Keep religion out of law.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  15. ohreally

    What a clown. Where was he when all those "Christians" were using the same tactics against the President?

    December 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  16. James, AL

    This is a disturbing article on many levels, and it fall far short of being Christian. Mr. Metaxas did not think this through very well.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  17. jo an

    The right speech for church...not here...

    December 10, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  18. Helaine

    "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." THIS GUY'S ENTIRE PREMISE IS WRONG. They are enemies of women. They are fat cats not paying their fair share.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • imABeliever

      Being pro-life doesn't make you an "enemy of women." That's a hysterical over-blown generalization. that is exactly what demonizing your opponent is. So, the guy running a pizza business in the local neighbor who is trying to make a living and doesn't want the govt to tax him to death and waste his money is a "fat cat"?

      December 10, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • HWB

      You are a phucking idiot???

      December 10, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Being pro life AND anti-contraception makes you an enemy of woman.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • imABeliever

      Cheesemaker, I think that lie has been hammered into you by the liberal media so that I almost think you actually believe that.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • imABeliever

      So, let's see.... How is it that many, if not the majority of pro-lifers are women? Are they enemies of themselves? Please try to explain this rationally.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers


      I hve an article from 1920 on womans sufferage and the person who was in charge of the Tennesee group against woman having the right to vote was a woman. That proves nothing. The proven method to stem abortion is s.e.x ed and contrception. You are not anto-abortion, you are anti-s.e.x and the ones that pay the biggest price in you "holy" war is woman and children.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  19. Chat Pata

    The big problem with Christianity is that they claim of spirituality, but they have none. Spirituality is opposite of materialism, and all these priest are filthy rich by scamming desperate people. If you are to believe Jesus, these materialistic priests have no place in heaven.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • imABeliever

      It's true that religious hypocrites won't make it to heaven. But neither will any other sinner, so where does that leave you? If you are judged by the law of God, you'll be guilty on judgement day. So, you must repent and put your faith in Jesus Christ.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @believer.................................There is no god, no heaven. so please repent your azz to sleep.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Gil Nodges

      Heaven is made up, of course, but otherwise, you're spot on..............wait, just read it again, and you've missed the mark entirely.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • Buster

      Really? All the priests are filthy rich? I'm pretty sure most priests make nowhere near what I make and they do twice the work.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  20. spellwizard

    The author of this op-ed needs to realize that there is no place for religion in today's politics whether he likes it or not. It's a dirty game the politicians play, and one that is not for the faint of heart.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:12 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.