I was asked recently by my stellar sister to comment on the recent speech that our President gave at the recent National Prayer Breakfast. This is not something that I would have normally wanted to write about but because I love my sister I decided to look into it. Now before I begin I want to make it clear that I respect our President. He is our God-given leader. Any doubt about that can be laid to rest by reading just a few passages in scripture. To make that point I wanted to offer the following extended quote and then I’ll get into the speech.
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good… 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
Now please remember that this was not written when Reagen (or whoever your favorite political leader is) was in power. It was written to the believers at Rome. And Rome wasn’t exactly a great country for religious freedom.
Okay, enough of that.
So I looked up this prayer breakfast speech that our President gave (he speaking around 1:07:00) and immediately a few things stood out to me. The first was that it was filled with the normal God-talk that is used so often in the public realm. The second thing I noticed was that our President made a concentrated effort to talk about how the uniqueness of Christianity wasn’t so unique after all but that it shares most everything with the other major world religions. To say the least I was disgusted with this kind of talk (as most Muslims, Jews and others would be). It is simply illogical, ignorant (bigoted?), and as D. A. Carson has said “self-defeating.” But I wasn’t as irritated as I usually get when I hear this kind of language. And that is because I noticed one a third thing. The President lacked all his usual charisma, charm and self assurance. Right from the get-go he looked unconvinced of his own speech. And his voice was uncharacteristically flat. It looked and sounded as if he just realized that the speech that he had prepared for this event was the wrong speech.
So I rewound the video a little bit (to about 35 minutes in) and listened to the speech before the President’s and then I understood why there was such hesitancy on the part of the President. Eric Metaxas had just delivered a witty, pointed, yet inspiring speech that ended with him leading the entire audience in singing the old hymn Amazing Grace (without it being awkward at all which is a monumental achievement in and of itself). Metaxas is the author of the stunning new Biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was the German pastor/theologian who stood up against Hitler in defense of the Jews and was subsequently imprisoned and killed as a young man. You can’t read enough of these kind of biographies.
What made the President come out so flat wasn’t that Metaxas just had so much energy. It was what Metaxas said. He spoke of the false religiosity that parades as true Christianity. He gloried in the utter uniqueness and truthfulness of Christ and Christianity. He accepted the fact that as Christians we are going to face trials and public criticism because we believe certain things about marriage and human sexuality. And then he talked about how those in Europe could accept slavery because they had denied that the African’s were indeed fully human and made in the image of God. He mentioned how the Nazi’s could do what the did to Jews because they denied that Jews were fully human and made in the image of God. And then he asked an astoundingly penetrating question: “Whom do we say is not fully human today?” And he just let that hang out there to let the audience muse themselves upon the obvious answer: unborn children.
As one writer has said “one could be forgiven for thinking that somehow Metaxas had been given an advance copy of Obama’s talk, then tailored his own to rebut the president’s.” It was that direct. So after hearing these two speeches I wasn’t really concerned with trying to attack what the President said. in the providence of God, Metaxas already did that.
So if you have a moment go listen and enjoy Eric Metaxas speak at the prayer breakfast (begin the video at 35 min in). I promise you it is worth it.