“Democracy is a rare flower in human experience,” Dr. J. David Woodard said during Erskine’s Constitution Day gathering Tuesday. Woodard spoke to students in Lesesne Auditorium, stressing the importance of Christianity in American history.
Woodard cautioned students about the modern tendency to ignore the role of faith in history. “The past is re-dressed in contemporary clothes,” he said, explaining that many modern historians try to view the past through a “value-free” lens that sees “no faith, only circumstances.”
“You read a lot, but you never read anything about God or the ones who worshiped Him,” Woodard said.
Woodard highlighted several figures from American history who demonstrated excellent moral character, and many of them faith in God, including John Quincy Adams, William Bradford, Abigail Adams, John Witherspoon, and James Madison. He highlighted the influence of the Christian faith on the Mayflower Compact and the Constitution itself.
Woodard said that these giants of American history may be a part of the “great cloud of witnesses” spoken of in Hebrews 12, the men and women of faith who have gone before us. If they could speak with us today, Woodard said, they would ask us, “What do you know about the permanent things?”
“Democracies are very difficult governments to establish and operate,” Woodard said, emphasizing the importance of faith and moral character in the establishment of sound government. Intelligence and good grades are not enough, he said, and “intellect is not exceptional.” Citing Ronald Reagan’s famous inaugural address, Woodard called students to “moral courage.”
“Character will carry you,” he said.
A political scientist and author, Dr. J. David Woodard has taught at Auburn University, Clemson University, Vanderbilt University, and Southern Methodist University. Among his published works are The New Southern Politics and Ronald Reagan: A Biography.
All institutions of higher education receiving federal funds must provide educational programming celebrating the history, meaning, and importance of the United States Constitution on or near Sept. 17, the day the Constitution was signed in Philadelphia in 1787.