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My Take: No pressure, Mr. President
Author Eric Metaxas speaks alongside President Barack Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington in February.
December 10th, 2012
05:00 AM ET

My Take: No pressure, Mr. President

Editor's Note: Eric Metaxas is the author of "No Pressure, Mr. President! The Power Of True Belief In A Time Of Crisis: The National Prayer Breakfast Speech."

By Eric Metaxas, Special to CNN

(CNN)–Imagine that the president of the United States had to sit and listen to you for 30 minutes in a public setting. Imagine that he couldn't escape and had to endure whatever you said. If you disagreed with him politically, would you try to embarrass him? What would you say?

Well, this actually happened to me. A year ago I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, an event attended by the president, first lady, vice president, and 3,500 other dignitaries. No one was more shocked at the invitation than I. Previous speakers include Mother Teresa, Tony Blair and Bono. No pressure.

By the way, I disagree with the president in some important ways. But as a Christian, God commands me to love those with whom I disagree, to treat them with civility and respect, as creatures made in God's image. That's a command, not a request or a suggestion. Again, no pressure.

In my speech I spoke about my heroes, William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Wilberforce's faith led him to fight for the Africans being enslaved by the British; Bonhoeffer's faith led him to fight for the Jews being persecuted by the Nazis. I used them as examples of people who passionately lived out their faith by standing up for their fellow human beings when most around them merely gave it lip service.

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I also joked around a lot, because as any of my friends will tell you, one of the ways I show love is by joking and teasing people.  Who said prayer breakfasts had to be boring?  At one point I said that George W. Bush had read my Bonhoeffer book, and then I glanced at President Obama and said "No pressure."  I'm glad he laughed!

Later in my speech, I talked specifically about the idea of loving our enemies. I said this was the test of real faith. Speaking to my fellow pro-lifers, I said that those of us who believe the unborn to be human beings must love those on the other side of that issue. I also said that those of us with a traditionally biblical view of sexuality are sometimes demonized as bigots, but we must love even those who call us bigots. I cited Wilberforce and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as two men who took seriously God's command to love their enemies in the midst of the most serious political battles of their day.  They honored God in how they fought, and he honored them.

At the end of the breakfast the president told me he would read my book on Bonhoeffer, and Vice President Biden took my picture with the president. No kidding. It was an extraordinary day and I'm not telling the half of it.

President Barack Obama holds up a book given to him by author Eric Metaxas

But the reason I'm writing now is that during the past election I was disappointed to see the president's campaign utterly abandoning these ideals of treating your opponents as you yourself would wish to be treated. Good people with principled and profound convictions about when life begins were cynically demonized as "enemies of women."  Americans who had worked hard to build businesses, and who had given millions to charity and to the government, were denounced as fat-cats who weren't "paying their fair share" and whose wealth was ill-gotten gain.

These scorched-earth tactics were not presidential, much less Christian, and because the president openly professes a Christian faith, I feel I must speak about this.

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Of course many will dismiss campaign hardball rhetoric as "what works." This is to miss the point. What we say matters deeply, and how we say it matters deeply.  All of it has serious long-term consequences.  For all of us.

For one thing, our children are watching and listening. We tell them it's less important who wins or loses than how we play the game. Is there no truth to this at all? Do we not see that this behavior erodes faith in the very political process and in democracy itself? Do we not see that by doing this we encourage our opponents to do the same - and worse - the next time around?  Shouldn't we care about that?

Any victory won in an ugly way is somehow a tainted victory. In this case, the president has "won" a deeply divided nation, one that he - alas - has had a hand in dividing. Now what?

If he is to succeed in the tremendous challenges that lay ahead, he must repent of these tactics and must make amends with his opponents, if it's not too late.  Or else he will face gridlock and more gridlock.  He also must show the door to those who cynically encouraged this "winning is the only thing" behavior.

His legacy and America's future depend upon it. Many will be praying for him.

No pressure.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Eric Metaxas.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Barack Obama • Belief • Christianity • Church and state • Politics

soundoff (2,208 Responses)
  1. New Englander

    " But as a Christian, God commands me to love those with whom I disagree..." Pray for better grammar.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  2. Me Again!

    I am just glad that he is not my pastor! I am very concerned about his flock!!!!

    December 10, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  3. jehosaphat Lonelyheart

    I like that, because he doesn't understand introductory modifiers, this twit tells us that God is a Christian

    "But as a Christian, God commands me..."

    Not everyone's God is a Christian; my own god is non-existent! And I do revile Oblahma, who is a liar and a murderer.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Murderer? Of whom? Please elaborate.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Observer

      jehosaphat Lonelyheart,

      How many people has Obama "murdered"?

      December 10, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Nobody has more blood on his hand than Bush. Over 5000 US troops dead over WMD's that never existed. How about innocent Iraqis killed over the same WMD's.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  4. wowzah

    behaviours of pharisees

    December 10, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  5. StrongLikeBull

    "Any victory won in an ugly way is somehow a tainted victory." There's an implication here that there are some political victories that are neither ugly nor tainted. And further implication that the president had little interest in anything beyond winning the election. A disappointing offering from the left; this is not a strong selling point for any of Metaxas' writings.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • StrongLikeBull

      Excuse me. RIGHT. 🙂

      December 10, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  6. Next!

    Metaxas is truly an inspiration to self-righteous hypocritical m orons everywhere.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  7. pat monday

    Your faith and beliefs do not belong when you are "writing" about government. You are causing more damage to this nation than should be allowed to. Stop it.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  8. wowzah

    Let the President work out his own salvation with fear and trembling.
    Can't the theologians see that people are tired of their interpretation of the word of God? You have turned people off by your intellectualizing of the bible. Remember Judas died not for stealing $ as is preached. He wanted messiah to get rid of the roman government and when things were not going the way he wanted it to go he sold him for 30 pieces of silver. Theologians today are selling out the word of God and biblicalizing everything that they disagree with.. STOP!

    December 10, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  9. Dr. Paul

    Your talking points here are weak. First, pointing out the stupid comments made by republican candidates regarding women's reproduction is not demonizing. Secondly, the rebuke of the wealthy who are paying less than the average American in taxes because they use their money to push for tax relief for the super rich while giving themselves awards for charity contributions isn't any different than Jesus running the money grubbers out of the temple. As for the children you mention, I believe our President has set a great example of trying to show love to all people, in all walks of life. Mr. Metaxas, you would do well to follow his example and be a bit more gracious and loving.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  10. David

    Sanctimonious blowhard.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  11. Jack

    Mr. Metaxas

    You have gotten to be kidding me! You are the very reason I left the Republican Party and the religious right movement! You profess one thing and in the next instance you pass judgement. When did you decide that you are God's right man?

    December 10, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  12. Redham

    If Mr. Metaxas wishes to hold President Obama accountable for everything said by anyone in the democratic party during the campaign, fine, but he should at least be honest enough to point out the vengeful, malicious and clearly hateful positions taken (and voiced) by those in the Republican party and their campaign. If you make yourself judge, which I don't believe is the Christian way, don't forget to check for the beam in your own eye first. And don't forget, thoughts, not just words, count too.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  13. JC in the hot tub!

    The authors selective outrage is so typical of a right wing nut, it's boring.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  14. wowzah

    hypocritical article.LOL. Why not ask those who are pursuing the President's birth certificate to repent?
    Please go read Matthew 23 OMG. Who are you to tell anyone to repent. Stop doing the work of the Holy Spirit of God. No wonder people are turned off God in america. How do you know that he has not already repented. TRUE Repentance is between God and a person, not a public matter. I repeat TRUE repentance. You are not God's policeman. This is arrogancy. Go pray and ask God to forgive you for your arrogancy Eric Metaxas.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  15. Kelly

    I didn't vote for Obama, but I tire of people putting words in his mouth. In this day of 24 hours news coverage, live mics and constant surveillance and attention, it's pretty hard not to get the exact words right. The president never describe high income earners as fat cats or said they looked for ways out of paying their fair share. He never blamed them for anything. Many of them paid all those millions that helped him get his message across to the nation. He faulted the system that does not require from them what it requires from the majority of Americans. He never described Romney as an enemy of women. He joked, (don't you claim that joking is good thing?) about the choice of words Romney used in his failed attempt at demonstrating his interest in equal pay. Funny how Christians claim to be loving and nonjudgmental, do such a good job of hating and being judgmental.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • layo24

      Thank you Kelly!!!
      It is possible to disagree without demonizing.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Observer

      Kelly,

      Amen.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • adm

      after reading this, i had to look up at the picture of this person to make sure he was beyond middle school age.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  16. Reince Your Priebus Daily

    How do you drive a tea bagger crazy?

    Just put them in the oval office and tell them that Obama's long-form "Kenyan" birth certificate is in the corner!

    December 10, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Yabba Dabba Don't

      How can you drive someone insane who is already insane?

      December 10, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • JC in the hot tub!

      Yabba Dabba Don't

      Good question.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • burbanktj

      we could do like in the old cartoons and tie his birth certificate to the end of a fishing pole and dangle it right outside of their grubby little hands.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  17. concernedcitizen

    I actually think he brings across some very good points. I don't know why people are so adamant against him, but I think he's absolutely right about Obama inheriting a nation in which he had a hand in dividing. I don't think anyone cares what I have to say, but I thought I might as well give the author a high five.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • David Friedman

      the article was boring, and I stopped reading at the start......

      December 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • Observer

      concernedcitizen,

      Our national division likely started when George W. Bush was president. He proudly proclaimed that he "doesn't pay any attention to what polls say". When anyone questioned the idiotic things he did, they were labeled as "unpatriotic", "unAmerican", "helping the enemy" and not part of "real America".

      December 10, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • sam

      A high five where? Below the belt?

      December 10, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • burbanktj

      you are absolutely correct in that no one cares what you say...

      December 10, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
  18. stevenstorkson

    Great article Eric. I can't wait to read your future books.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • stevenstorkson

      I can't wait to learn how to read, either!

      December 10, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • stevenstorkson

      Huucked on fonicks werked fer mee!!

      December 10, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • burbanktj

      i hope there's enough pictures

      December 10, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
      • stevenstorkson

        God bless you, Burbanktj.

        December 19, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  19. Guy

    Metaxas was scary enough when he was just part of the christian right, now that he has proclaimed himself to be the RIGHT christian and tells the POTUS to repent, he has gone to far.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • imABeliever

      The author did exactly what his religion tells him to do, that is to call others to repent. Why all the fuss about this?

      December 10, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      When you finish kissing his ass, Imaboob, try to see the light.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • Guy

      Iam...
      Because it is none of his god damned business to tell anybody what to do? Christians fail to get that.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Yeah, Guy. Too bad I'mABoob doesn't get the fact that it's none of anyone's business what others do unless they're infringing on the legal rights of another party.

      December 10, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • sam

      iAm, are you speaking lies again with the voice of your father, THE DEVIL?

      December 10, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  20. Chuck

    This started out as an amusing article, but quickly turned into something abhoring. Within a few short paragraphs, the author managed to contradict his own preachings. When both sides are at equal fault in terms of lies, the fact that he chooses to call out the President shows his true colors. You dont have to be a Christian or a Muslim or a Hindu to talk about the Golden Rule. Just talk in a spiritual tone, and you can reach out to everyone.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • sam

      He got a bit lost.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:00 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.