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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. lol??

    Reporter to Big Abe Lincoln, "Mr, Prez, whatdya doin' with that axe?".Big L, "Dialoggin'."

    December 10, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  2. John P. Tarver

    Obama is very good at populism and a fail at leadership.

    December 10, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • Observer

      As a leader, Obama FAILED to start a $1,000,000,000,000 war for false reasons like the last Republican president.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Aezel

      Ah yes, keep telling yourself that. That's why he won the presidency, and Democrats made gains in both houses of congress.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Tard, you sound like a sore loser. Or just a loser, forget the sore.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • sam

      Jesus, this guy is like the political version of Jack Handy.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  3. Aezel

    Everything bad behavior you complain about in this article is committed a thousand times more often by Republicans. The GOP is the post child for immoral behavior.

    December 10, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  4. John P. Tarver

    Republicans gained seats in the US Senate and retained control of the House, time for Obama to compromise.

    December 10, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Aezel

      Uh, actually there genius, Republicans lost seats in the Senate. Democrats increased their total from 53 to 55 seats. Make up bulls*** much?

      December 10, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • Akira

      They didn't gain seats in the Senate; and yes, the Republicans need to compromise instead of obstruct.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • burbanktj

      I know it was a couple months ago and short-term memory tends to kick in, but the GOP did NOT gain seats in the Senate. Again, these are called facts.Facts: something that has really occurred or is actually the case. An example would be, "The Democrats gained a net of two seats, ending with a total of 53 seats. The Republicans lost a net of two seats, ending with a total of 45 seats. The remaining two senators, independents, are expected to caucus with the Democrats."

      December 10, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      That noise you hear is Tardver crying in his beer.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • mama k

      No, JPT – they did not gain in the Senate. Did you have your Geritol yet today??

      December 10, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      The man suffers from ROMNESIA

      December 10, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  5. John P. Tarver

    Republicans retained the House and expanded their minority in the US Senate, mandating greater gridlock. Obama must learn to lead, for king Obama is deposed since the 2010 election.

    December 10, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • Observer

      John P. Tarver,

      You are CLUELESS. Democrats GAINED 2 seats. Republicans LOST 2 seats in the Senate.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Denial isn't just a river in Egypt, Tardver.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • mama k

      I was going to say – what kind of crazy math did you study JPT.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  6. Slambo49

    Joseph Smith was wanted in 3 states for bank fraud. Someone lauded Romney for his good foundational approuch to business ethics. No honesty there, just staying true to his "momonic advancement" mentality. What else are the republicans going to throw at American to destroy it.

    December 10, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  7. John P. Tarver

    Had Romney obeyed Reagan's eleventh commandment a Republican would have been elected President, but Romney would not have been the nominee.

    December 10, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • midwest rail

      It's always amusing when modern conservatives invoke Reagan's name. Were he in office today, espousing the same ideals and enacting the same policies, he would be roundly decried as a RINO, and targeted by the Tea Party for defeat.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Akira

      How quickly people forget that Reagan was a Democrat, and only switched so he could be a viable candidate when he ran for Governor.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  8. SDjim

    Separation of Church and State period. Perhaps the author might want to look at behavior on BOTH sides before calling out the President.

    December 10, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • lol??

      Right on, bro. Keep that servant in da closet.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • craigsandiego

      "Romney didn't pay taxes in 10 years." – Harry Reid. (proven wildly and ridiculously not true, but never retracted.)

      "Romney was responsible for the death of a woman." When challenged on this, President Obama did not refute it, despite the fact the woman had health insurance at her own job, unrelated to her husband's job at the steel company owned by Bain. Despite the fact Romney was gone from Bain 2 years before the husband lost his job (as if that were relevant).

      Romney's tax plan, repeated over and over: reduce tax rates by 20% for all taxpayers, but eliminate deductions for wealthy people so that their taxes would not come down from current tax rates. Obama: "Romney would raise taxes on the middle class to benefit the rich".

      I could go on and on. But "facts" aren't what ideologues use in thinking.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • sam

      Watching you grasp at straws is fun, craig.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  9. SAm Yaza

    http://rt.com/news/atheists-persecution-discrimination-report-692/

    apparently their more persecuted then us Pagans

    which is kinda true even us pagans say things like their just dead in side, or the just spiritually deaf dumb and blind

    now i just got to say sorry Atheist ill try and do better with treating you all with respect and dignity now that your the most hated people on the planet

    yeah second place thing are looking up

    December 10, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
  10. Sagebrush Shorty

    "Religion is the opiate of the masses."

    December 10, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Opium is the opiate of the masses.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • leadercraft

      Nah, you guys are already stoned.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • Athy

      Mass is the opiate of religion.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  11. Odessey

    This guy is still crying because his man lost the election. It is terribly sad when folks like this Eric Metaxas claim to know the bible, or even God. These guys are just plain hypocrits. These are the pharises of Jesus' time. Eric or whatever your name is, you are the one who really needs repentance! By the way, Mormonism is still a Cult.

    December 10, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  12. John P. Tarver

    Republicans have no incintive to compromise and it is Obama who must make the concessions. The fiscal cliff is a good thing in the long term.

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

      John P. Tarver,

      lol again.

      Polls show that if we go over the cliff, people blame Republicans over Obama by a 2 to1 margin.

      Oops.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      It's "INCENTIVE", Tard.

      You're no smarter than the Repubs you worship. Observer's right: polls show that if the country goes off the cliff, the majority of Americans will blame the Republicans.

      You guys can't win. Get over it.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Still bitter huh? You can make up all the lies you want. Obama is the man for FOUR MORE YEARS and there is nothing you can do about it! Fortunately the majority of Americans and a landslide electoral vote seals the deal.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  13. lol??

    Hillary to Micky O in the unprincipled primary, "You can't always git what you want."

    December 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  14. John P. Tarver

    The People granted Republicans more power, but rejected Romney's negative campaigning.

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

      John P. Tarver,
      lol.

      Republicans LOST the White House they thought they had.
      Republicans LOST seats in the House.
      Republicans LOST seats in the Senate.
      Republicans LOST all votes on gay marriage.
      Republican "hot shots" like Allen West LOST.

      Try again.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  15. Observer

    Mitch McConnell made a complete fool of himself. He had a TOP Goal of defeating Obama and miserably failed.

    Now Republicans have to lick their wounds and actually try to compromise. Hopefully Republicans like McConnell will now be more concerned about solving today's problems.

    December 10, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  16. Butter

    Who IS this little pimple?!? HE disagrees with the President, so he has the audacity (and the "moral authority") to tell the President to repent.
    If you went for the the Repubs in the last election, Pal...YOU better repent! No group has divided the nation more than the greedy elephants (white only!) of 2012. This guy wouldn't know Jesus Christ if He walked in his front door with a name tag on.
    This type of "Christian" turns people AWAY from Christ. Blind as a bat!

    December 10, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
  17. jjz

    It is frightening to read some of the comments posted. Some can so brutally and shamelessly attack others – supposedly fellow American who shared different opinions than ours. This country is heading downhill on its civility and civilization amid many other aspects. So sad.

    December 10, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • lol??

      "jjz
      It is frightening to read....."....."Rev 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and who re mon gers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  18. lol??

    It'll be a kinder softer campaign when Micky O runs for prez, "I take NO PLEASURE in the Big O, when he..........!"

    December 10, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  19. John P. Tarver

    The People chose more grid lock and that is the decision.

    December 10, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • Observer

      Yep. There's still lots of Republicans left in Congress.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
  20. KDad

    Of all of the things that this president has been called by people of Mr Metaxas' political persuasion. Of all of the nasty things that has been said about this president by people of Mr Metaxas' political persuasion. This article is absolutely priceless.

    December 10, 2012 at 8:04 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.