What Gun Control and Anti-Transgenderism Laws Have in Common

Apr 18, 2023 by David Fowler

What Gun Control and Anti-Transgenderism Laws Have in Common
I have come to believe that the clamor for more gun control laws and the push for laws suppressing drag shows and transgender procedures for minors share a certain worldview. That worldview, one I shared and operated under for two decades, explains why passing laws hasn't done much, if anything, to change the direction of things. I hope you can learn from my experience and join me in reconsidering something I once thought true.

Boiled down, the worldview is this: we can create a culture and environment in which human flourishing can take place by means of law.

The View of Law that Both Sides Seem to Share

I could be wrong, but both sides seem to think, even as I once did, that laws addressing a symptom of what is at root a theological and anthropological problem will fix things in some way. They quibble over which of the symptoms is the most problematic—for example, the availability of AR-15s or drag shows and certain books in children’s libraries—but the premise seems to be the same.

Round and round we go with our arguments for different laws, but we all seem to think laws attacking symptoms is the solution to creating a better world. 

A Personal Example and the Resulting Failure 

As a state senator, I used to think if I helped pass a strong marriage law or even a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman (which was achieved in Tennessee in 2006), the institution of marriage would be shored up and its redefinition prevented. 

Nine years later, in 2015, marriage was ostensibly redefined by the United States Supreme Court because, in Justice Ginsburg’s view, America then seemed ready to accept same-sex marriage. 

The problem in 2006 was not that certain people were trying to refine marriage and that they needed to be stopped. The problem was that the public mind had already lost its belief in the profound human and God-glorifying good that male-female marriage is. 

The purpose of the law was to prevent something “bad”—a legal redefinition of the word “marriage”—not restore to the public’s mind the good of what that kind of marriage is.

I could argue that the goal was to restore that good, but in doing so I would have proved my point that I thought law in itself could create the good.

My Policy Efforts Reflected a Serious Theological Problem

Until recent years, I would say I was “saved by faith,” but I lived as if justification and sanctification were defined in terms of doing righteous deeds. It was a legal spirit, as the old theologians would call it. The way to a better life was by law, and mostly by not doing certain things the law of God prohibited.

But as Solomon said, “out of [the heart] spring the issues of life”—the how and why of what we do. Therefore, a legal spirit in my heart toward God could not help but show itself in the form of a legal spirit in the realm of law and public policy.

One of the righteous deeds I would offer to God (and to others) as proof of my justification was to work for the passage of laws prohibiting the doing of certain bad things or requiring certain good things. Even as I thought a “work of law” was the way to a life pleasing to God, civil law was the way to a better culture, one that would be pleasing to God.

The Purpose of Law and Its Inherent Limitation

I am not saying that laws are unimportant. Law is pedagogical, according to liberals and the Apostle Paul (Galatians 3:24). Thus, law does teach us what is good and evil—though our laws often teach the evil as the good—and a Christian magistrate must be mindful of this (1 Peter 2:14, Romans 13:3–4). In 2013, I even wrote a book on this, The Politics of Loving God; however, none of what I wrote then or in the preceding paragraph means law will make us good. 

For example, even if the law says “transgender care for minors” should be prohibited, that does not mean it will restore the good of what it means to be human and made in the image of God, the loss of which opened the door to transgenderism. 

In fact, when advocacy for that law is based on what science now says about the health risks associated with those procedures—as every state working on the issue is doing—then the law is likely to teach those it negatively affects that medical science just needs to be perfected. When that is achieved, the argument now given for the law will fall away, and no argument against it will be left to its supporters.

In Conclusion

As God began to expose to me my legal spirit, I began to realize there is nothing in the whole of Scripture that gives any support to the idea that there is any “power” resident in law except to stir up and exacerbate the sin in us (Romans 5:20, 7:5, 8–9). 

Thus, I have come to conclude that thinking a few more pragmatically grounded laws strictly for the sake of prohibiting what a majority may, in the moment, think is bad will make us good is to not use law “lawfully” (1 Timothy 1:8).[1]

The purpose of law in a Biblical sense is not to create a moral checklist of rules (commands and prohibitions) a person keeps, but something far more: “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). That doesn’t seem to be the way we think of law today; rather it’s utilitarian, the methodology employed when no higher good exists other than what seems to work at the moment. 

Conceiving of law contrary to God’s conception of it and trying to do with it what God calls unlawful has not solved anything. I don’t think more of the same will produce a better result.

[1] “But we know that the law is good, if a man uses it lawfully.”

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