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Depopulating a Nation: The Socialization of Cultural Change

By Dr. Lisa Dunne

The Wall Street Journal recently released a study on China’s attempt to come back from its dramatic population decline. The Chinese population, which now hovers at 1.4 billion, is expected to drop to half a billion by 2100. But many young women are saying no to the idea of being a mom. 

After decades of being programmed not to have children, they have come to believe that children are not worth the sacrifice of their own time and energy. These young girls have been socialized for so long that they eventually reached the point of cultural no-return. The natural desire to marry, to carry a child, and to raise a family has been supplanted by a government mandate. It’s a sweeping socialization that has so deeply implanted itself on the next generation’s worldview that no amount of convincing or incentivizing seems capable of bringing them back.   

And you guessed it, there is a parallel for us. 

America’s kids are in danger of a similar socialization. After decades of being saturated by the IV drip of indoctrination in public schools, America’s youth are facing a point of no return. Their worldview is growing more anti-faith and anti-family by the year. 

It’s time for us to step in and speak up. 

Across the US, parents and pastors are recognizing that this is a solvable problem—if we act now. My friends in Florida are a case in point. They started to notice a trend in their children, who were coming home from the local public school—in the Bible belt—with increasing levels of fear over what seemed to be the insignificant (and certainly not trauma-inducing) actions. The kids would panic when anyone ran the shower too long. They would stress out if mom or dad let the water run unabated while brushing their teeth. One day, the mom asked her youngest son why he was so worried. “Mom,” he said, his little eyes welling up with tears, “we’re going to run out of water! There isn’t enough water for everyone!” 

Mom assured her son that there was plenty of water and that God had built into the earth a natural recycling process that literally reclaims water from the ground to the sky. She reminded him that no new water has been created nor has needed to be created since the dawn of the universe because God’s provision is perfect. But her son remained unconvinced.

Like many parents, the pastors initially thought that a  few simple conversation with their children would open their eyes to the truth, but the root of indoctrination had wound itself around their hearts, minds, and emotions. Every argument at home would be countered with, “But mom, my teacher said it’s true.” This refrain was echoed again and again. The root of fear and the teachers’ authority in all matters had already been well-established in their hearts, even in the early childhood years. 

Who is teaching the children, and what are they being taught?

These sweet, innocent children were coming home from school literally terrified of turning on the tap water. Their mother immediately discerned the root of the fruit: the public school system was indoctrinating her children with a spirit of fear. Their teachers were warning them over and over that the earth was going to run out of resources, and a classroom of children came home paralyzed with anxiety about the future of their world. The children couldn’t think logically through the lens of faith to see God’s provision and protection; instead, their impressionable little minds and hearts were gripped with terror. 

Looking into the eyes of their worried children, the parents recognized this deception and decided to do something about it. They stood up and took action by opening the doors of their church to the community and reclaiming students from the secular state eduction system, freeing their own children from public school indoctrination and impacting their city for over two decades now. 

As adults, you and I know that the God who created the heavens and the earth also created the resources to sustain them. In fact, as the creation scientists at Fourth Day Alliance have shown, we could fit the entirety of the earth’s living population in one single state: All 8.1 billion of the world’s men, women, and children could fit in their own 1,000 square foot homes across the 267,339 square-foot-state of Texas, leaving the rest of the country—and the planet—completely void. 

The entire living population of the world can be housed in one single state. The world is not overpopulated. We are not running out of resources. Yes, some cities are overpopulated; however, the world itself is not overpopulated. But this is still one of the fear-driven models of teaching in the public system, and it’s even more pressing and overtly influential today than it was 20 years ago.Fear has been the controlling force in school systems for generations, of course, and, more recently, it’s also been the driving force for parents to keep their kids in schools that they know are broken and harmful. Fear is a terrible master. Most of the parents who come to us wanting help with breaking their children free of the public school’s indoctrination centers are gripped by one singular emotion: fear. They don’t feel capable, qualified, equipped. They fear that they won’t have the resources, the intelligence, the patience, the organization, the know-how. They have been trained in the expert culture, conditioned to believe that they are, at the core, simply not good enough. This is a root of fear, insecurity. 

It’s so important that we understand fear in both its physiological and spiritual implications. Fear is a manipulative emotion that keeps people shackled, living under what God has called them to live over. And this is where we now find ourselves, in the age of anxiety. (Hear my testimony on tonight’s KPraise Radio show, MindsetMatters). 

If you’ve ever dealt with fear, you know that it causes a variety of human responses, many of them irrational. A mindset of fear can cause people to lash out unreasonably. It can cause people to withdraw completely from human contact. It can cause people to become hypervigilant or suspicious of everyone or just plain mean-spirited. Many of the fear-based arguments blazing across social media today quickly disintegrate into the childhood version of name calling with ad hominem fallacies that attempt to defame the person. These conversations are often devoid of logic but fueled by fear.  

That’s why, at Chula Vista Christian University, we make opportunities to talk about what’s really going on in the next generation. That’s why we have classes like marriage, family, and attachment that help students understand God’s design for friendship and marriage. It’s why we tackle tough topics in chapel and help students build meaningful relationships with peers and professors. 

Since fear and anxiety are some of the key emotional responses gripping the minds and hearts of the youngest generations today, let’s take a moment to unpack their causes, effects, and impact on the body and brain.

From a physiological perspective, fear has a number of negative effects on both our biology and our neurology. Fear hijacks our emotional response system, which is what causes people to become irrational. It damages the hippocampus, it impairs long-term memory formation, and it impacts our ability to regulate emotion in general. A study by the Pacific Lutheran University School of Nursing showed that chronic fear can cause immune system and hormone system disruption, nervous system changes, sleep changes, eating disorders, headaches, chronic pain, and difficulty breathing.

Fear can also be extraordinarily debilitating from an emotional perspective as well. Dr. Mary Moller, director of Psychiatric Services at Northwest Center for Integrated Health, says that emotional impairments from fear can include learned helplessness, phobic anxiety, mood swings, obsessive-compulsive thoughts, and an inability to experience feelings of love. That last offshoot, an inability to experience love, is of signifiant concern in a generation where paralyzing idealism and the fear of commitment often keep young people from marrying until later and later. 

Just as we are seeing the socialized decline of childbearing in young Chinese women, we are seeing that same attack on the institution of marriage right here in America. According to the US Census Report on marriage medians from 1890 to present, the average age of marriage for women has gone from 20 in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s to age 25 in 2000, age 27 in 2010, and age 29 in 2021. 

While there are many reasons for the delay, fear of commitment is a known causative factor. The delay affects birthrate, as fertility decreases with age, and it affects what I call “bachelor habit formation,” which may make longterm relationships more difficult to sustain. Young adults need to be trained in a family, not by living with a group of other bachelors as they await the culturally delayed onset of marriage. Biblically, a child goes from the covering of his or her parents to the covering of the spouse. There is no in-between stage.

How did these ideas get implanted in the brain collective? In the social sciences, there’s a term called the mean and scary worldview. It’s a phenomenon that happens in the brain of someone who has a high viewing rate of screen time, with “high” being defined as over two hours of screen time per day (and let’s remember the sobering reality that most teens are ingesting well over 2 hours a day—more like 8, 10, 12 hours a day of screen time). This viewing habit causes people to see the world as a more dangerous place than it really is, which means they become more fearful, more suspicious, and less trusting of others in general. When we hyperinflate the danger of something in our mind, we don’t respond logically. 

Fear actually drives our response to the world by creating a view of reality. A study at the University of Minnesota found that fear can interrupt the neural process that helps us regulate emotions and read nonverbal cues. So instead of having a normal emotion or reading someone’s nonverbal response correctly, our brains respond through the lens of fear, which means we are more likely to be impulsive and hyperreactive to situations. 

Fear also affects our digestion and other autonomic bodily responses. The body devotes all of its energy to fighting off that perceived threat—real or imagined. And chronic fear, like that which often drives panicked parents in their search for educational options, even impact our memories of experiences. 

Our brain is dependent on certain chemical states to retrieve certain memories, and fear can impact both our recall of and our storage of memories. The chemical changes caused by these chemical changes can actually distort our memory and our perception of reality! Fear impacts our behavioral, autonomic, endocrine, cognitive, and even our interpersonal responses. As author Gary Chapman once said about emotions like fear, they are designed to be visitors, not permanent residents, in the human heart.

What we feed on grows. If 90% of the conversations in our head focus on fear, and if we fail to balance that with conversations founded in rationalism, that’s a breeding ground for  a fearful worldview. And this worldview affects more than just us as individuals. Like a virus, these beliefs and behaviors can be transmitted from one individual to another. If we don’t begin to assess and address some of these problematic paradigms in our own minds, we will persist in passing these mindsets on to our children, our families, our friends, those within our realms of influence. Fear can drive us to be hypervigilant, constantly worried, or obsessed. As Harvard Professor Steve Pinker says, this exposure to fear can lead to us becoming “miscalibrated.” 

A relentless consumption of negativity makes us fatalistic, gloomy, desensitized, anxious, and even hostile. Why? Because it creates a mindset. And let’s remember how mindsets form: When a working model or paradigm goes unnoticed and unquestioned in our lives, it creates a pervasive worldview, a lens, a mindset of fear, what Besser van der Kolk described as a “misinterpretation of innocuous stimuli as potential threats.” In other words, it creates a worldview of fear and defensiveness where we would be better served by healthier responses like trust and hope and openness. 

Fear is a terrible master. So what can we do to start walking in a new normal, a faith normal? It starts with parents leading the way, recognizing our own habitual patterns and then teaching the next generation the art of freedom. It starts with parents stepping up like our Floridian friends did, becoming agents of change, and rescuing their children from the fear-based education systems that are training up a generation of fear-driven protégées. Visit to see how you can become part of the solution. 

Because of its refusal to acknowledge biblical truth, the secular humanist education system can’t accurately assess or address the spirit of fear. The best the world can offer is a non-Christian, clinical approach that assigns problems without cures and offers only Band-aid approaches. As believers, we must fit our lives and our expectations into the word of God and not the other way around. His word is a lens through which we view both our definitions and our solutions.

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