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. John

    What is wrong with you? What made you think he would take you seriously? Why did you sotfpedal him to his face, only now to call him out on his wrongs? How dumb are you to think that he's a real "Christian", or that he was any different than the slimy tactics you talked about? What is it with ministers who are so dang gullible? The man deserved every bit of the criticism you were too cowardly to say, and now the joke's on you. Maybe YOU should read your Bonhoeffer book. SHEESH. "Loving your enemies" doesn't mean affording them the benefit of the doubt they haven't earned. It means criticizing them TRUTHFULLY without resorting to gratuitous insults or slander. But criticize you MUST.

    December 10, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  2. adetutuijose

    You need to go back an read the Bible because the president is more correct then you. First off, killing the unborn is defined by God, as killing the seed and penalty is to pay a fine to the father.
    Shedding of innocent blood is the killing of people he has allowed to be born on earth by weapons (guns will qualify) or any other way for any reason apart from self defense or war such as when Cain killed Abel or the people killed Stephen and so on.
    You are the one that needs to repent. God is the one that empowers us to get wealth. It is not the work of our hands. He does this so we can take care of those who do not have. When we fail to do this properly and the poor cries, then the rich is in trouble with God and he uses government and other ways to effect the redistribution we see throughout Scriptures.
    God is the same yesterday today and forever. He hated inequality yesterday. He hates it today and he hates it forever.
    The only way to please him is to follow what he has said not redefine things. Reread your Bible after prayer and fating for mercy and choose to believe God and not the interpretation of men. We are not told to interpret for the Bible is the interpretation of the code of nature into human language we can understand.
    Anyone who seeks interpretation will end up in error as you and many seem to have done. It will not change the word of God.

    December 10, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  3. bill.x

    Love they enemy. When dealing with Republicans it is more like going in to clean a pond and once hip deep finding it is infested with alligators. One quickly forgets their initial objective. But to suggest that one should surround an adversary, especially a Republican, in a national political campaign is extremely naive – don't you think Mr. Metaxas?

    December 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • bill.x

      I meant say to surround a republican with love in a political campaign.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Rich

      Wow, really? As many as 50-100,000,000 Americans identify themselves as Republicans. They're all bad people? Must be great to be as perfect as you.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  4. Hmmm

    Many have helped to divide the nation throughout the course of Americ's history and it continues today. There is plenty of blame to go around on all sides. The president is not the only one who needs to repent, we all do. That would include the author of this editorial. It's easy to identify the splinter in someone else's eye until you realize that what you really have is a plank in your own.

    December 10, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Rich

      He didn't say he was the only one to blame. What difference does it make whether he's the only one to blame. It seems pretty indisputable that he's not reaching out the olive branch; he's taking the same approach he did when he first won four years ago. "I wont the election. It's over. You lost. Do what I want."

      The problem I have with casting blame on anybody else is you can't control what they do, all you can control is what you do. The President of the United States has it within his power right now to take steps to end the bipartisan bickering that's going on; not by giving in, but by not trying to demonize his opponents. George W. Bush has a lot of blame to take for the mess we got into, but there's nothing he can do about any more. Barack Obama owns it and in order to improve it, he has to work with the Republicans. If he tries – and I mean REALLY tries, not gives it lip service like "Here's the offer, take it or leave it" – and the Republicans still obstruct, then he'll at least have done what he could. Do you honestly think he's done that? I don't.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  5. Rev Dr Felix Nwosu


    December 10, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • sam stone

      Really? Why there starving and disease? Not enough people praying?

      December 10, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • MaryJ

      Yes, including genocide, Holocaust, Inquisition, witch burning, bigotry, racism, and a host of other things that you'd like to hide.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  6. SmarterThan I Look

    After reading all these comments I can see where this country is NOT going in the future. People need to work together to make this country great and the people leaving these "he said she said" comments shows that they're not ready to be honest with themselves let alone other people. To bad.

    December 10, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  7. Doc Vestibule

    From January 2012 until the end of his campaign, Romney spewed over 900 blatant falsehoods.
    He lied so much, both his pants and his temple garments were on fire.

    December 10, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • SmarterThan I Look

      Did you count the falsehoods ( what's the matter, can't you say lies?) that OBama told during the course of his running for re-election? I bet not. It's always the other guy that's wrong to your type of person isn't it.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Kirk

      SmarterThan I Look
      What falsehoods did Obama make?

      December 10, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I can only reference MItt's mendacity becuase MSNBC kept track of all his lies throughout the campaign and detailed them one by one.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  8. G8R

    Just another Christian hypocrite blathering on in the name of the American Taliban.

    December 10, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  9. Bev

    Who gives a darn.......you are trying to sell your book. Nitwit! I am always very impressed when employers pay their staff minimum wage so they can have a bigger pot then donate millions to some charity or hospital wing to have their name on it. But of course the media is always invited so the world can know how generous they truly are. What a pile of HOGWASH!
    I think the God you claim to serve cares about 100% of the people he created. He also loves variety that's why he created all these many beautiful shapes, sizes, colors, etc. I LOVE that God and he love me even if I am part of the 47%.

    December 10, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • jon

      I wake up every morning now thanking God that those idiot Republicans did not get elected. What a pile of dung they presented to us during the campaign. And, what a disaster the next 4 years would have been except for the common sense of the American voters. The ranting and raving of the GOP was truly shocking.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:48 pm |

    Ha, people who don't even read Belief Blog coming here for the sole purpose of whining.

    December 10, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  11. I'm not buying it...

    So life starts at the moment of conception, say pro-lifers. There's no brain activity, because it's just a bunch of cells dividing, but that is where life begins. So what about a person in a vegetative state, with no brain activity? That would be defined as "lifeless", right? There's living cells that are dividing and metabolizing nutrients, and this could go on for years, albeit on a machine. Some will now argue that the machine assists in providing "life", so it's a poor analogy. Well, what exactly does the womb do for the fetus, then?

    December 10, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Not convinced either

      There are just under 7 billion people on this planet who began as a bunch of cells dividing in a womb, each an example of life. How many examples are there of people in a vegetative state can you cite that led to a "life" as you define it? Poor analogies appear to be commonplace these days.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • amit

      oh cmon, if brain activity alone was necessary condition for someone to be called alive, all republicans as well as the author of this piece would considered dead, LOL

      December 10, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  12. DOUG MAC

    It is sad to read the hateful comments posted here. The writer is demonized as a bigot, a tool of capitalist fat cats, a hater of gays, and who knows what else (I was sickened by the tone of the comments and just couldn't read on)- all without any real evidence in the article. Where are we headed as a nation if we cannot respect and reconcile differing beliefs?

    December 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm |

      Exactly. The same crap that the author was writing against is overflowing in the comments.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • bartbrn

      When some self-appointed vice-messiah labors to point out the "religious solecisms" of President Obama, without also pointing out the vicious and hateful behavior of the Teabaggers who've been solidly arrayed against him for the past four years, and in doing so have brought Congress to a level of constipation it hasn't seen since the 1850s, he needs to be reminded of it. Metaxas is a one-sided, one-trick pony's backside, and proves it conclusively in this anti-Obama polemic. He deserves at least as much criticism as he thinks he has a "religious Right" (pun intended) to meet out. He's a hack, and not a very well-educated hack.

      We DO have to give him props for one thing: he has a more interesting hair fantasy than most 'baggers.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • c

      Mr Mataxas makes some good point's; but he must have glossed over some of those good "profoundly convicted" American patriot's calling Obama; un American, carrying sign's of him caricatured in black face, with monkey ear's, Little black or multicolored Sambo with a bone stuck through his huge nose. Some of these same good free speech loving christian's took Ak 47's to rally's in support of their cherished gun right's-they love zygot'es but don't mind shooting helpless animals because it give's them a cheap thrill.

      I wonder what Wilberforce or Dr King would think about these non bigots painting a bulls eye target on the back of the head of the President of the United States of America. I wonder if they would wonder why?

      Mr Mataxas say's "Any victory won in an ugly way is somehow a tainted victory". Really- Ain't that the pot calling the kettle black.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  13. bartbrn

    "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.... 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." As the Teapublicans did through Obama's first term AND the recent election, when Mitch McConnell and his puppetmasters Rush Limbaugh and Karl Rove proclaimed that the ENTIRE and ONLY agenda of the Teapublican Party was to see that "Obama's Presidency failed" and "Obama would NOT get a second term?" Is THAT the kind of Christian "love thy enemy" and "do unto others" you're blathering about?

    I think the Teapublicans' theology pretty much dispenses with the New Testament, and hews to the Old, with its "eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth" vengefulness. And I take it that this "holier than thou" self-puffery: "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…" is supposed to cement your status as a simon-pure non-racist who couldn't POSSIBLY have ANY prejudice towards President Obama on the grounds of race, right?

    As for your PERSONAL self-righteous moralizing, let me direct you to the New Testament, which YOU - unlike William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer - apparently COMPLETELY overlooked during the course of your religious "education."

    Matthew 7:1-5: "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."

    You'll probably not see this, as CNN has been deleting or rejecting posts that don't agree with it's OWN highly "moral" and "fair and balanced" stance at a rate and level that would make Rupert Murdoch and Faux News blush, but I'll be thinking of you, and the way you represent "modern" Old Testament Vengeful Christianity.

    December 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  14. Fran

    Boo hoo... The President hurt your feelings. Grow up Mr. Metaxas.

    December 10, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  15. Trebor Nameloc

    Who started it, sir? Politics is a tough game. Had the president gone around kissing the cheeks of his opponents, he would have been branded a "wus" by the voters, and lost in a landslide. As for who started the real nastiness, you don't have to look any further than Newt Gringrich. Richard Nixon, et. al were bad, but old Newt wrote the book on nastiness as it exists in politics today.

    December 10, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • c

      Might I add-Fox News (Hannity, Beck, Oreilly, Malkin, Stossell, Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh, Trump, the morning couch cootie's whose names i never remember) Lou Dobb's (hateful ole geezer) the broad (if Romney' win's /we lose) with the long blond hair. Paul Ryan, John MCcain,Newt and a host of other loser's who sat around on tv talking about Obama like he was a dog.
      Funny Mataxas didn't mention any of them in all his searching of other people's soul's and character # Hypocrit. trying to blame everybody else for the nasty stuff the Republican's '& teabagger's did and said during the election. Now all of a sudden they wan't to :throw brick's and hide their hand's. deceitfull; just plain deceitfull. That is exactly why they lost.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  16. saidso

    You may love your enemy but you shouldn't forget that they are still your enemies. You must still speak up for yourself and speak the truth. Anyone who comes between you and the right to your own body is still your enemy no matter how much you love them.

    December 10, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  17. Mohammad A Dar

    "I was disappointed to see the president's blha blah blha..." opportunist, goon, oh and do you carry that picture of yours with Obama in your wallet, like PBA cards?

    December 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  18. Jesus

    It sounds like he's just upset that a black guy one 4 more years...

    December 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Bob Emery

      Thanks for saying that. The GOP is the group showing disrespect. It's a wonder that Obama has restrained himself the way he has without calling these people what they are – opportunists, obstructionists and uncaring. And they call themselves Christians! I doubt they know the true meaning of the word. It's all for show with them as far as I am concerned. So, let's stop with the I'm-better-than-you-because-I'm-a-good Christian crap and get on board with the rest of the country.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  19. lionlylamb

    In God are all things made. Of God are all things made to be manifested in God. By God are all manifested things made of God to ever be in God a manifestation for God's pleasure. For God are all things made manifested in God to ever be done by the graces of God's will to be had in and of and by and ever to be for Godliness intentions.

    December 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      You have no evidence that your god exists, let alone the claims that you are making. Back up and try again.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      Honey Badger Dont Care: You may not see evidence that God exists. But that doesn't mean that others don't have it.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Huebert

      Bob Bales

      If evidence cannot be produced, then you don't have it.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • sam stone

      You may not see evidence that The Flying Spaghetti Monster exists. But that doesn't mean that others don't have it.

      December 10, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  20. Lee

    This is hypocritical on so many levels. 1) He ignores the same "unchristian" tactics used by Romney, suggesting either that he does not believe Romeny is a Christian and/or that the same "Christian rules" don;t apply to Republicans. 2) The fact that he is even bringing this up on a public scale is a form of judgment (i.e., condemnation), which Chirstians are also commended to not do. Loving literally means ignoring the behavior we don't agree with and talking with the person privately about it for both person's sakes. This is nothing more than political snyping in the guise of relgious teaching.

    December 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Chris

      I'm not sure you "literally" know what "literally" means...

      December 10, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Howard

      Well said, Lee, well said.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Stacy

      Well said! It should be pointed out that many Christians don't consider Mormonism to be a sect Christianity and perhaps the write doesn't either, but it still doesn't excuse his lack of commentary on Romney's deplorable campaign tactics and behavior.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:42 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.