Brilliant in conception, and divinely inspired, Alford Alphonse’s book on Barack Obama is a fascinating blend of scholarship and perception.

Ewart Walters
Taking its title from Jesus’ observation in Mark 6:4 that “a prophet is not without honor except in his own country,” Not Without Honor is unique in locating the 44th President of the United States in the prophetic tradition of the Old Testament prophets and also with the hope of the New Testament as portrayed by Paul in the Acts and John in Revelation.

It is not clear that Dr. Alphonse ever heard any of the sermons Barack Obama preached in churches across America in the days before he became President. But he would have been witness to the millions that thronged to see and hear him in the great cities of Europe and Africa. And he would have seen photographs of the thousands who yearned to be near him in St. Louis and Chicago and other US cities in the days leading up to and including November 4, 2008, when he was elected President. But he would also – like the rest of us – have been only too keenly aware of the hatred, scorn and visceral contempt that has been heaped on him in Washington by elements in the Republican Party and its satellites.

And yet in the face of all that, it is the audacity of hope that shines through, and which permeates this prophetic progressive assessment of President Obama. In a stellar work that would be of no surprise to his congregation at Coke Methodist Church in Jamaica in the 1960’s, Alphonse considers President Obama in the context of each of the prophets. If his comments on former Haiti President Jean-Bertrand Aristide could benefit from deeper analysis, they do no real violence to this engaging study. His chapters on Isaiah, Jeremiah (in which he reflects on the all-too human flaw of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright), and on Joshua (in which he recaptures the spirit of Jamaica’s Michael “Joshua” Manley and compares it to that of Obama), are perhaps the most engaging in a study that leaves the reader gasping at its depth and breadth. In the end it is the closing chapter on “A New Heaven and a New Earth” and the Epilogue that distil and focus the writer’s unvarnished message of hope and admiration for the first Black President of the United States and his goal of reaching out for a better world.

Ewart Walters President of the National Institute of Jamaican Canadians