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Published March 10 2012

‘Veggie Tales’ writer to talk in Fargo on Monday

NEW YORK – A month ago, best-selling author Eric Metaxas found himself in an amazing spot – just a few feet from the president of the United States as the keynote speaker for the 2012 Fellowship Foundation National Prayer Breakfast.

Metaxas, who says he was stunned to have been asked to give the speech in Washington, D.C., considers it the honor of a lifetime.

“It’s a fabled event,” Metaxas says during in an interview with The Forum from his home in New York City. “And I have to say that the reception and the buzz since then have been far beyond what I had expected.”

Fresh from his orange juice and toast with Barack Obama, Metaxas will be doing another keynote talk Monday night; this time in Fargo before a crowd of more 800 at FirstChoice Clinic’s annual fundraising banquet at the Holiday Inn.

Pauline Economon, director of the pregnancy help medical clinic, said the gathering is always popular, but this year’s event includes a waiting list of more than 100.

Those attending will be treated to the writer’s masterful blend of humor and sobriety that characterizes his presentations.

Metaxas, a Yale graduate, began his multidimensional career writing humor pieces for The New York Times and Atlantic Monthly. From there, he wrote for the popular faith-based “Veggie Tales” book and video series for children.

Despite his propensity toward humor, Metaxas has found his greatest success as the author of two serious biographies detailing the lives of people who have made a profound difference in history.

The most recent, “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy,” is a New York Times best-seller and recently was named book of the year by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. It covers the life and work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who, for a time, worked as a spy and helped lead a failed attempt to oust Hitler that ultimately cost Bonhoeffer his life.

Metaxas’ earlier biography, “Amazing Grace,” focuses on the life of William Wilberforce and the 18th-century British politician’s campaign to end slavery.

During the February prayer breakfast in Washington, Metaxas drew a parallel between the two subjects of his books, noting that in Wilberforce’s day African-Americans were not seen as fully human and during Bonhoeffer’s time it was the Jews.

“Who do we say is not fully human today? Who is expendable to us?” Metaxas asks, circling around to his answer. “Jesus opens our eyes to his ideas, which are different from our own, which are radical. Personally, I would say the same about the unborn; that apart from God we cannot see that they are persons as well.”

Metaxas says that just as Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer challenged and illuminated those around them by viewing the world through eyes of faith, so must we.

“Those of us who know the unborn to be human beings are commanded by God to love those who do not yet see that,” Metaxas says.

Economon says the author’s visit comes at a crucial, relevant time given the recent U.S. Health and Human Services contraceptive insurance mandate.

“Seeing the government overreaching into areas of religious freedom is very disconcerting. Where will their reach end?” she says. “That’s why Eric’s message is so important, especially now. He is brilliant in his presentation about Bonhoeffer, along with his example of keeping issues of faith alive in a secular world.”

Metaxas, in his interview with The Forum, says he’s squarely on board with the mission of pregnancy help centers, which he called a classic example of the faithful helping those going through a tough time.

Metaxas’ wife directs a pregnancy help clinic in New York City, where the abortion rate is double the national average.

“I think they’re doing amazing work, and they’re not political. They’re just stepping in and meeting the needs of women … helping them to make a tough choice when a lot of times boyfriends or their families are pressuring them to do what they don’t want to do,” he says about the clinics.

Metaxas is also excited to visit North Dakota for the first time.

“As much as I feel at home in New York, in some ways I feel even more at home when I go to the center of the country,” he says. “I feel like I

resonate with the values of the folks there, so for me it’s kind of fun.”

If you go

<•> What: Author Eric Metaxas providing keynote address at the FirstChoice Clinic fundraising banquet

<•> When: 7 to 9 p.m. Monday

<•> Where: Holiday Inn Great Hall, 3803 13th Ave. S., Fargo

<•> Info: The event is sold out, but there is a waiting list in the event of cancellations. Call (701) 237-6530 for information.

<•> Online: To watch Metaxas’ speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, go to: http://goo.gl/Dpo49.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Roxane Salonen at (701) 241-5587