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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. sybaris

    "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.."

    Pssst, hey! If it takes an imaginary sky fairy to get you to be nice to people, you have larger issues.

    December 10, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      The world is awash in many unbalanced and emotionally insecure creeds, therefore keeping a handle upon them is yes the Christian thing to do. Our world is nowadays in dire needs to tie up the many and if religion is a way then, so be it! Imagine if you will, a world without religion. Just exactly how could we have come along till now if not for religious degradations laments? Why throw religion out the window just because one sees only barely passed one's own nose? In my repenting way, I do so see the national needs for religions for they are people's emotional helper to get them thru their days of ill wills nurturing inside them. My Christian belief for remaining a 'closet Christian' is right for me but for the many who cannot single mindedly see their way thru, I guess church is their only means to find a days worth of emotion-based freedoms thru the church.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  2. menoc

    All I will say is . . .

    Jesus was a far left liberal.

    There is no such thing as a God. The earth was not made in 7 days. And if God did exist, then he is the laziest being in human history – He's been late for Thousands of years . . .

    December 10, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  3. endless

    In the reading of these comments, it's apparent that the name for this "blog" should be changed. "Mocking Those Who Believe Blog" or "Belief Blog for the Unbelieving Scoffer". If you are a believer, avoid it like the plague or at least don't read further than the article alone. I won't be coming back. The commentators encompass all the things wrong in this world.

    December 10, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Don't let the door hit you in the azz.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      If you can't handle the heat get out of the kitchen.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • Eric Metaxas

      A thousand tiny violins play sad music to mourn your departure.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • sam

      I like to picture Jesus in a tuxedo T-Shirt because it says I want to be formal, but I'm here to party.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • sybaris

      "If you are a believer, avoid it like the plague or at least don't read further than the article alone."

      Typical christian, no room for reason or logic. Just stick your fingers in your ears and your eyes glued to your book.

      It's no wonder the U.S. doesn't even rank in the top 10 for academic achievement.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • Observer

      endless,

      Stick your head in the sand and tell us what you learn. Run away from learning.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Keep up the good work folks, They're leaving.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I'm puzzled by the assertion that "the commentators express all the things wrong in this world." What, like disagreeing with the author? Like criticizing those who would abrogate the legal rights we have in this country? Like telling hypocrites to shove it?

      Good. Beat it and go elsewhere if you think those things are "wrong." I hear Iraq is lovely this time of year. Move there.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  4. Penny Wright

    50% of American women will have an unwanted pregnancy in their lifetime. The Republicans want the government to force these women to bring their pregnancy to term. Unwanted children are MUCH more likely to be abused.

    Therefore, Republicans are pro child abuse.

    And don't tell me an embryo is a human being. If it was, the thousands of frozen embryos in fertility labs in this country would have the right to own guns.

    December 10, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Adam

      Where are you pulling this 50% of all women will have an unwanted pregnancy in there life time? WHERE? Also, the Republicans had control of the White House and the congress for years. Was Roe vs Wade over turned? No.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What do you mean, "where", you moron? Do you even have a clue?

      The fact that R v W stands is not a tribute to Repubs, dude. It's testimony to the number of American citizens who do NOT want it to be overturned.

      The Repubs yammer about abortion to garner votes from idiots too stupid to see they're being used as pawns. The moment the election is over, abortion goes into the closet again until another election cycle begins.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, and Adam? If you want to be taken seriously, without causing riotous laughter, figure out the difference between "their," "they're," and "there."

      Otherwise, you look like an idiot.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  5. Eric Metaxas

    Your intolerance of our intolerance will not be tolerated!

    You've been warned.

    Now repent!

    December 10, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Ruby

      Erik, that is pretty funny. These people, both the Christians and the anti-religion group, get so puffed up with their own opinion they soon lose all sense of proportion and babble like quarreling children. I suppose civil discourse is beyond reach.

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

    Boy, are you a nut case, Mr. Metaxes. First, you need to be commanded to do the right thing. I do the right thing because I know right from wrong. It always amazes me that Christians and the religious in general seem to have no moral compass of their own to the point that they need some "God" to "command" them. How embarassing for you. And then you seem to be making the case that Mr Obama should have been easier on Mr. Romney. C'mon! Really? That's not the way our political system works, it's not something Obama inveneted, it's our system you should be criticizing, but regardless of that, it sounds like you're just licking your wounds at the expense of the winner of the elections. How pathetic, pardon my frankness.

    December 10, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • leadercraft

      ha ha ha he he haw ha ha whoa ha heah ho ho ha

      December 10, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  7. Jeb Bush

    Should I repent to the cute little baby Jesus in the diaper or the one with the beard?

    Or can I just repent to Santa Claus instead?

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

      I like to think of Jesus as a mischievous badger.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • sam

      I like to picture Jesus as a figure skater. He wears like a white outfit, and He does interpretive ice dances of my life's journey.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • burbanktj

      I think you will all be fairly surprised when you die and find out that Jesus looks like Papa Smurf.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • Peter

      I think it's Santa Claus. Isn't that the one with the beard who lives in the clouds? I'm never sure... I think the difference is that one has a red outfit and the other one wears robes, but... who cares?

      December 10, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • sam

      I had a dream where Jesus was a dirty old bum, and I was about to sock him in the face because, well he's a dirty old bum, but then I thought, there's something special about him...

      December 10, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  8. TonySez

    Oh come on. The Prez defends his positions and tells the truth about his opponent(s) and your panties are in a bunch because he wasn't 'nice' enough? When the wolf is at our door, tearing it down to get at the rights of our daughters and wives, our granny's medicare and ssi, pensions, decency, truthfulness, and love of one another in the model provided by Jesus–you want us to be nice about beating it back? Which God do you serve?

    December 10, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  9. Ron Donaghe

    And you wrote this missive because...? Is it only that President Obama used such tactics, not that Romney used them as well, or that the Republicans didn't "Swift Boat" John Kerry in the previous election, impugning his Medal of Honor, questioning his patriotism? Where was "Mr. President. repent" that time?

    December 10, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • suzanne anderson

      Nothing like yet another Christian taking time out to judge.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  10. John in CA

    There are no Christians in political races – only contestants. Your advice is well said, but only truly well said if it includes ALL the political contestants – not merely the ones you disagree with, or the winners. Politics shows its underside every election, and I expect it will continue to until election reform laws are passed (and beyond). I would suggest that a law which would allow the civil side of our political contestants to appear is a requirement of all candidates to use only government provided monies on their publicity – and that we de-humanize corporations so that they can no longer contribute to the buying and selling of our positions of power.

    December 10, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
  11. smart man

    Let's waste time and energy arguing over imaginary beings.

    Join this century and ignore the fictional ramblings of desert nomads from the iron-age.

    There are no gods. Deal with it.

    GodIsImaginary. Com

    December 10, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
  12. YBP

    It's 2012.
    This is the US.
    There are no gods.
    There are no monsters.
    There are no gods that behave like monsters...like the god of the bible, with his ancient childlike mind and violent ways.

    December 10, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • burbanktj

      And Hostess has gone out of business. You would think the end of Twinkies would be enough evidence for all that God doesn't exist.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • sam

      There must be a passage in the bible that foresaw the downfall of the Twinkie.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @sam...................Gays will be blamed for the fall of Twinkies.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • Joe

      If we did live by Darwinism. You would not be here. You would have be stamped out long ago

      December 10, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • Bill

      How many people do you know or have known or read about where there at the start of the Universe? ZERO. So please, you and your friends don't talk like you all were there since it all started form the beginning because you weren't. Chances are if we followed Darwinism you would have been taken out a long time ago.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • leadercraft

      The fear of The Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
  13. Neueman

    Hypocrisy is alive and well in the religious right.

    December 10, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Bill

      and hate and judgmental is alive and well on the left.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  14. Anon

    Man this was a stupid and boring article

    December 10, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  15. Brad Fenichel

    Eric,

    Thank you for demonstrating the courage to speak up. We 21st-century American Christians often swing in one of two directions, when it comes to those with whom we disagree: either careless bluster, or irresponsible silence. Neither extreme demonstrates the character and example of the One we profess to represent - Jesus.

    We have much to learn from Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Dr. King. Thank you for reminding us of their outstanding example.

    Brad Fenichel
    National Minute of Prayer

    December 10, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • INTOLERANCE INTOLERATOR

      Yes...I heard a lot of you guys swing both ways.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  16. DEAR NON-REPUBLICANS

    Your intolerance of intolerance will not be tolerated!

    Repent!

    December 10, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • INTOLERANCE INTOLERATOR

      I WON'T TOLERATE THIS

      December 10, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • burbanktj

      completely intolerable.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • sam

      This kind of intolerance for intolerance by the intolerant is just what is wrong with this society.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  17. 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? Flee the manmade church before it is too late!”

    1Corinthians 3:9 “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building.” Along with Luke 17:21 “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within/inside you.” Is all one needs to know that manmade churches are not God’s churches! Flee those manmade churches for Christ's sake flee them all!

    December 10, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  18. Joe

    Your article is given this much space and you make claims without giving a single example? If the President really said what you claim he did then why didn't you quote him in the article?

    You see this ALL the time in regards to Obama! People will say he campaigned dirty, takes away our freedoms, installs socialism, increases welfare, is racist, etc.. BUT, ask them to give you a single example of something he did or said to back up any of those claims and you get crickets....

    December 10, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • sam

      He's seen so many others get away with it, he must think it's perfectly normal.

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

      facts have never really been there strong suit

      December 10, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  19. DaveLake

    Quick comment before I have to leave.

    I find it most encouraging that so many posts are negative in regards to this article. I feel I am not alone being disgusted with his type of thinking.

    December 10, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • sam

      Maybe we could help him out by suggesting he have a sane person read his next article before it gets published.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Jared

      You find it encouraging to find many disagreeing with Mr Metaxas on the liberal left wing propaganda site known as cnn.com?

      December 10, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • sam

      UUUHHH LIBERUL PROPY-GANDUH!!! LAHDY LAHDY SAVE US JEEEESUS

      December 10, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  20. steve mcclendon

    right wing lunacy at its best. never say die

    December 10, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • Joe

      Where as the left wing are a bunch of bigots. People who claim to have tolerance and intelligence yet you ALL attack shout down and name call people you don't agree with. The only thing that over shadows your stupidity is your hypocrisy.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • leadercraft

      Hey Bonehead – Metaxas is a Democrat.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:33 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.