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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. FantasyBaron

    These nuts actively campaign to overturn Roe v.Wade. If you're really religious and have faith than be satisfied the mother goes to hell and the baby goes to heaven. Either way the conservative all knowing betterest than thou will not support the mother or the baby with money but they'll pray for them. Hypocrites and unconfortable bed fellows money reps and religious reps are.

    December 10, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • grannybush

      how do you feel about being aborted now? Of course you would say NO. But, a baby doesn't have the same opportunity that you have.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • FantasyBaron

      Like I said the baby is in heaven and mom is going to hell it seems a win-win to me. Let's be honest this is all simple psychology. Most studies show humans don't like killing small, cute, adorable and furry creatures and CUTE animal babies. Once its an ugly cold-blooded gator baby its toilet flush. There's no difference with babies. I'm sure you've secretly cheered the murder of a death row killer or done nothing to help injustice in the third world. But they're not cute and cuddly and little miracles like our babies are. Please, they're dying by the thousands a day. Legislate your own morality at home and leave mine alone!

      December 10, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • End Religion

      A fetus is not a baby and does not get a choice.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  2. John P. Tarver

    Romney self destructed by going negative and driving down turnout; not Obama's fault.

    December 10, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • grannybush

      Did you not notice the dirty tricks Obama pulled and all the negative campaigning he did? That's how he won. Be fair, at least to yourself. Otherwise, how can anyone take you seriously.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • burbanktj

      grannybush, your name is disgusting but I'll try to speak reasonably to you anyway. Both candidates ran a 'dirty' campaign and that was the point of this guy's article. The problem is that when you are a journalist and you only look at one side, you lose credibility.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  3. rachel

    I don't like this guy. He's a predator posing as a housepet.

    December 10, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
  4. Wicket

    Hiding behind religion doesn't make you less of a bigot when you want to deny a group of people rights, it just means your religion teaches bigotry.

    December 10, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  5. Tara

    The republicans got out played, out maneuvered, out bluffed, and beat at their own game and they are livid about it. As for this guy maybe he should go do some charity work in a poor community and really see the suffering in this country because I think he could use a little humility himself.

    December 10, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • grannybush

      this kind of talk only shows that people like you treat this like a game to be out played or maneuvered. Unfortunately, it is not. This president is the most partisan president I've ever seen in my lifetime. But, I think folks like you actually enjoy that. This president is ruining this country with his dirty politics.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • End Religion

      Granny's off her meds again. Look out! Jedediah, go get me m'thirty-aught-six!

      December 10, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  6. CypressSteve

    As much as it must hurt to read about one's bad behavior in the news, and be called out on it, no bad behavior can be justified by someone else's bad behavior. "Republicans did it, too" is not a valid justification. IMHO, most of the comments posted about Mr. Metaxas' article simply reinforce the primary thrust of it. If President Obama wants to successfully lead, he will need to be inclusive, not divisive, regardless of what his opponents do (and regardless of his religious beliefs). The same is true of any other leader. To do otherwise is to be nothing more than a placeholder and will destine Barack Obama to mediocrity forever in the annuls of history.

    December 10, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • burbanktj

      valid point. current politics have gotten way too personal. I honestly believed that if tonight Obama decided he wanted to do away with Obamacare, then there would be a huge Republican following tomorrow that would want it out of spite.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • mama k

      Good points. But let's see how much more compromising the House Repubs will be this term compared to the initial term where they vowed not only to put Obama out of office, but to not put through any legislation he would put forward regardless of merit.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • Barry

      Baloney. No one ever said politics was Sunday School, and Mitt Romney and his surrogates certainly, CERTAINLY didn't play it that way. This guy's credibility just vanished when he started calling out the President for things that went on with both sides and with all the candidates. (OK, maybe not Huntsman, but see where all that good behavior got him.)

      December 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  7. FantasyBaron

    Why should the president be civil when Mitt is lying through his teeth? You can't win a civil campaign. 1% of the stuff these guys say is fact checked. So its up to Obama to choose the lesser of two evils. I don't respect your views and I would point you to the stats saying that Atheist is the greatest upcoming religious preference. In this day and age its crazy that we're still arguing about the bible and its million inconsistencies. Read a little history and come to the conclusion learned people first did almost two hundred years ago; Jesus is a composite of world religion stories that travelled through the Levant.

    December 10, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  8. Just call me Lucifer

    Eric Metaxas has stated the following on his website:

    "Someone shoot me before the earth melts, which will happen any moment now."

    Won't someone please do as he asks and make the world a better place?

    December 10, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Jump

      Thanks for proving his point. This must be that famous tolerance from the Left we've heard so much about.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • leadercraft

      Wow, I say. Tolerance is a liberal invention to condone sin.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
  9. joshocom

    "Good people with principled and profound convictions about when life begins were cynically demonized as "enemies of women."

    No. The people who were demonized as "enemies of women" were the people who were attempting to take their "principled and profound convictions" about when life begins AND sought to force those convictions on EVERY WOMAN IN THE COUNTRY, whether they shared them or not. You don't distinguish between the concept of somebody having a personal conviction and somebody who decides that their personal conviction needs to be yours as well, under penalty of law.

    December 10, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • cholla9807

      I need a "LIke" button

      December 10, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • scottophila

      I need a like button too

      December 10, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • Jump

      Uhhh...the position you endorse (against those who would force their convictions upon others) is, quite obviously, one of forcing your convictions upon others. It's thus as guilty or innocent of the charges you level against your opponents. We "force our convictions" upon others any time we make a law. That's what the law *is*.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • wr

      nice obfuscation there. You're deliberately completely missing the point by re-framing it as a women's issue, when it isn't, and more than it's a women's issue about whether mothers can kill their 5 year old children without state interference.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • leadercraft

      hey JOSHY, sounds like you have some convictions of your own and you are shoving them down every unborn child's throat.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nope. Josh is correct. If you're not the one who's pregnant, it's none of you ef f ing business. Butt out.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Some of you seem to have amnesia and need to wake up: abortion is legal. It's none of your business. Never was. Never will be.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • joshocom

      For those who feel I'm "forcing" my convictions on people: fail. By saying that a woman is free to choose to have or not have an abortion, I am not forcing them to do anything (except, I suppose, make up their own minds for themselves). I'm not forcing anyone to have an abortion, to take part in them, to perform them, to pay for them. That's called freedom. What the author was defending was people who do not believe that women should have that freedom; that there is only one truth and it must be adhered to.

      Your arguments are specious and twisted.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  10. Joe Clark

    What Eric Metaxas has failed to understand is that Obama's end game actually is gridlock. He is the great divider. He seeks no compromise and he gives no ground. He is divisive by nature and pursues only his personal selfish agenda rather than those of the American people. Oh he can put on that charming smile before the camera but he never fully shows the teeth the untamed tiger which he actually is. I hope and pray America can survive this " creatures" leadership for four more years if it can in fact be called that!

    December 10, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • mama k

      Sad attempt to try to attribute the motto of the House of Representatives for the past four years to the President. Idiot.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Methinks Joe lives in an alternate universe. I wonder what color the sky is there?

      December 10, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      Spoken like a true christian.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • FantasyBaron

      Joe, Bush 2 was the great divider. No one outside the rustbelt actually believed in the Iraq War or Bush's assault on the deficit with those outrageous tax breaks. Its a great story that you tell but thank goodness you're wrong.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • carly

      "He seeks no compromise and he gives no ground." LOL you right wing clowns just don't give up. You been on Mars the last 4 years when your friends obstructed everything in sight? when all they cared about was their corporate donors? Get real. Every intelligent American knows that the dribble coming out of the right wing these days is just that: dribble and BS.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • pierre nicolas

      Division. Romney was no better. He was not inclusive. He has excluded 47% of the population vote. He hides, lies about his taxes. He is presumptuous, misinformed. The majority of the american people do not hate successful and/or rich people, but do not appreciate companies that have shipped american jobs overseas, fired poor folks, hence enriching their stockholders at their expenses. Amend – Mitt Romney should make lots of them. Obama is no different.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • scottophila

      Divisve nature??? Selfish agend??? He reached out for 4 years only to be ridiculed by the GOP.....it seems you don't like the GOP being forced to under go the same actions they doled out to Obama for the past 4 years........he DID win a mandate from the American people and this is conveyed by their support for what he is finally achieving over your impotent opposition.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • leadercraft

      Joe has it right!

      December 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      @joe....................Slowly back away from the crack pipe. Stop being bitter.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • End Religion

      Exactly what are you Repubs eating that makes you so stupid?

      December 10, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  11. Trevor

    It's always interesting to hear Christians defend rich people since Jesus said they have no chance of getting into heaven. I guess all the rich Jesus freaks ignore that part as well as, let's be honest, every other part of the bible.

    December 10, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • Jump

      No. Jesus didn't teach that. But let's be honest, people are fond of pointing out hypocrisy on the part of Christians when they have no idea what the hell the Bible teaches.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • scottophila

      Trevore seems to read the bible I read............I would like to see JUMP quote something from his bible that contridicts what Trevore is saying

      December 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • leadercraft

      Tell me, Trevor, where in this article is there mention of rich people? You didn't even read this, did you? Go home.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  12. Carol

    What did the President say that was so ugly? I don't remember anything. Have you ever commented on the verbal and visual ugliness the President has endured for over four years? Or do you just not see or hear that kind of ugliness?

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

      It's not what the President said but rather the look his chair gave.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Well, yeah, but what do you expect when it was taunted by Clint??

      December 10, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • End Religion

      That chair thing was amazing, wasn't it? They had little to no real ammo against the real Obama so a creepy old white dude made an invisible straw man Obama to heap scorn on. Then because he didn't exist they could make up any lie, convince themselves of its veracity and push that onto Obama's empty chair as well. Sounds like it is still going on. Obama's chair stole the election somehow. Obama's chair is divisive.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  13. farside6262

    and yes, ignorami, it is principles, not principals!!

    December 10, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  14. menoc

    I've said this before . . . life starts at e_jeculation. Sperm is alive. It is what carries life to it's destination. Therefore, 99.9% of men have killed a human being in their lifetimes.

    Why stop there? . . . Are cells alive? . . . . Have you ever cut yourself?

    Do we understand this now?

    December 10, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  15. carly

    Don't you just love it when people like Metaxas preach to Pres. Obama about being disappointed that "the president's campaign utterly abandoning these ideals of treating your opponents as you yourself would wish to be treated". Where was this clown for the last 4 years when the right wingers and then Romney/Ryan abused him 24/7. No person should hold back when treated like those right wingers treated the President. My suggestion to Metaxas, STFU.

    December 10, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Floyd from Illinois

      Well put, Carly – I would have said the same, but you did it better and earlier.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • mama k

      Well said, carly.

      December 10, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Kevin

      Metaxas meant to say "Do as I say not as I do." Do these clowns know what they are doing?

      December 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • Jump

      Ah yes, carly. Next time you preach about tolerance, remember the words of your own post. Its tone. Its content. Thanks.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Jump

      Sheesh, Carly, you're being super defensive. Take what he says to heart. He's dead on correct, regardless of whatever "the right" has done. The difference, by the way, is that none of those guys has been a sitting president acting as divider. And please, if you ever find yourself prone to exhort someone else to be tolerant, think back to the content of what you just posted.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  16. Sean

    So the president play you lip service and some how you think you're suddenly his "best buddy". The country is divided thanks to people like you, not the President.

    December 10, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  17. sybaris

    Gay Jesus > Surfer Jesus

    December 10, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      ...and what of gay surfer jesus?

      December 10, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  18. Bloviator

    I think I'll repent to Santa Claus instead.

    At least he gives presents.

    December 10, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  19. Peter

    Mr. Metaxes, take a hike.

    December 10, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  20. Penny Wright

    Science flies you to the moon.

    Religion flies you into buildings.

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

      Lonely Christmas huh? If that's the most you can make out of religion and science that you are truly an ignorant person.

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

      Can you do any better, GAT? If so, why didn't you?

      December 10, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • Robert

      Well said, Penny. Let's hope Metaxas says something to Boehner about how Jesus overturned the tables of the MoneyChangers and how "it's harder for the rich to get in to Heaven then to thread a needle".

      December 10, 2012 at 8:07 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.