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. Buy My Book!

    This guy is a fake Christian at best.

    Just another right wing hack trying to cash in on the s tupidity and gullibility of the average "conservative" "Christian".

    December 10, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  2. there is no other truth but truth absolute, and truth absolute is LORD AND GOD OF THE WORLD.

    hinduism, absurdity Bible is not a standard, but hinduism, criminality cobble together to promote hindu Mithra ism, savior ism, religion of hindu Pharaoh's and hindu criminal Romans, foundation of hinduism, racism,

    December 10, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • Buy My Book!

      Hindu hindu hindu!

      Blah Blah blah!


      December 10, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • John Gault


      December 10, 2012 at 7:08 pm |




      December 10, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
  3. burbanktj

    God told me to read this article. Now I ask God to repent.

    December 10, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  4. DaveLake

    What a small world he lives in!!!

    December 10, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  5. Not buying it

    Typical religious excuse monger. His bigotry shines through like a beacon. "Believe as I do or you are wrong"! In actuality he's just saying "do as I say, not as I do", as all religious fanatics do. Don't trust 'em. Can't trust 'em. They'll lie in the name of their god all day long. Their god who does not even exist.

    But oh well, he'll make some money off this article, get his name in the media, make some more money, and so it goes in the religion business.

    December 10, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • John Gault

      Agreed. And in addition Obama's opponent who wears magic underwear and think god lives on the planet Kolob truly ran a "love thine enemy" campaign, right?

      December 10, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  6. Nietodarwin

    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.

    I wrote the White House and asked the President to never attend another "prayer breakfast" I hope we can have no more prayer breakfast again. Write the White House.

    December 10, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  7. Nathan Ballard

    Is there a reason this is on CNN.com?

    December 10, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • burbanktj

      honey boo boo didn't do anything interesting today so they had to look for a plan B...but all they could find was this crap

      December 10, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
  8. Buy My Book!

    This guy is clearly trying to sell his worthless book.

    December 10, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  9. Andrew

    One word- blah!!!

    December 10, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  10. nelson

    Why there isn't any mentioning of the Republican candidate and his campaign and his party? You only showed the readers half of the picture and had the other half covered, and you think people is that stupid to believe the other half does not exist? You are not even close to being fair, let alone truthful, and by being so, you dishonored God!

    December 10, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • burbanktj

      journalistic integrity sponsored by god

      December 10, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  11. Metaxes First Class Hypocrite

    He calls his fellow Americans his "enemies" then pretends to "love" them by admonishing them to "repent" for sins that he himself commits.

    Right wing lunacy at it's finest.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  12. SkepticalOne

    The author can go ahead and love me but I am still going to think he is an idiot.

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

      Great comment Skeptical:)

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

      While I understand this is an 'opinion' piece, he could've made a much more compelling argument if he had talked about the same from the GOP's campaign.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • Nathan Ballard

      Best comment in a while!!!

      December 10, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  13. DaveLake

    Wow-how pompous. Does he not get separation of church and state. And speaking about the Republican Party-here in Wisconsin the Republicans have rescinded a law that gave women equal pay as men in the work environment. They also want right to work=lower pay. At this point in time teachers no longer will be paid for getting a Masters. Why have teachers continue education right? The list goes on and on.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, because you know, teachers shouldn't expect to be paid more for having experience and earning an advanced degree. They do it for the CHILLREN.

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

      Plus, most teachers are wimmens, who can't be paid equally anyway.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Haha. "Wimmens. They're pizen. They got those wimminly wiles." "What are wimminly wiles?" "Uh, I dunno. But I'm agin 'em."

      December 10, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • sam


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

    Mr. Metaxas has done a simple thing: falsely attributed words to another and then criticized him for it. "he must repent of these tactics and must make amends with his opponents, if it's not too late."

    December 10, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  15. Marcus

    Since most of your "facts" are untrue, it is you that need to repent.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  16. Next!

    Couldn't CNN find a real Christian to write an article?

    Why did they let this blowhard space to peddle his worthless book?

    December 10, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  17. Steven

    What a horrid commentary. Given the hijinks of the last election with some of the worst coming from the Rev. Billy Graham abandoning long held principles to advocate for Mitt Romney I think that right wing continues to do itself a disservice by believing it to be better, smarter, more righteous, more religious, more chosen... They've come to believe that there is Republican Christianity and the beliefs of others do not measure up. As a man of faith, I say please stop mixing religion and politics. It is a deadly poison.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  18. Dwayne

    Where were you Eric when Billy Graham was cherry picking the Bible and telling us to vote only on pro life and gay marriage and ignoring the rest of what the Bible tells us? Where were you when Joel Osteen had the audacity to think that he had the right to sit at the right hand of God and judge Mitt Romney as a Christian by asking him a few questions and saying his answers were "Good enough for me"? Where were you during the Republican primary when Republican after Republican used God to promote themselves and told us that "God told me to run for the presidency"? I guess Chuck Norris and his wife were right about Christians "wandering around in a 1,000 years of darkness". What seems apparent is that self righteous Christians like yourself have started wandering around in darkness long before this election took place.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  19. relians

    worthless article.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  20. e

    Funny how he fails to mention Republicans using lies and distortions for the last decade, including horrendous lies villianizing veterans like John Kerry and Max Cleland.
    He also leaves out that Jesus spoke openly about hoarding of wealth, and was very much against it. He also spoke of helping the poor and providing health care... to things Republicans are openly AGAINST.

    December 10, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
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About this blog

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.