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the Body Politic
Vol. 09, No. 03 - May/Jun 1999, Page 22
Copyright © 1999 by the Body Politic Inc.
Eyes Right

Gloom, Doom and Dollars

The Religious Right Meets Y2K

By Jane Clair

On the stroke of midnight, January 1st 2000, the Millennium Bug (Y2K for short) threatens to end life as we know it, disrupting financial institutions, food and water supplies, energy utilities, and government, due to the inability of computers to read the new date. Like mindless cattle to the slaughter, the majority of Americans rush heedlessly on toward the new year, planning parties and celebrations when they should be buying emergency supplies and building survivalist bunkers in Idaho. How do I know? The Bible tells me so! At least, the Bible according to eminent religious right thinkers Dr. Gary North, Pat Robertson, and Dr. James Dobson, among others.

Not to worry, though -- there is a solution. Of course, that solution involves buying books, tapes, and videos to guide your preparations for this crisis, as well as prepackaged food supplies, water purifiers, lanterns, generators, crank-powered radios, etc. Not to Y2K Bug mention the first step, which is prayer. As it says on the Christian Broadcasting Network website (www.cbn.org/y2k/), "Step 1. Seek God's wisdom. If you're already a born-again Christian, this should be second nature to you. The Lord will give you guidance and wisdom (James 1:5) If you are not born again, then Y2K is the least of your worries..."

As a person who knows very little about computers, I began this assignment with an open mind about the impact of Y2K on the complicated and interrelated systems which now rule our world. To be fair, there is as much prophesying from progressive groups about the Y2K threat as there is from the right wing. However, the tone of the alarm is very different, as are the proposed solutions. For example, the booklet Y2K Citizen's Action Guide, a supplement to the Utne Reader, has an outline for organizing an entire community to ensure survival; the goal is a grassroots network of supplies, skills, and contingency plans involving people from all walks of life. As one might predict, the religious right plans focus on organizing individual families and churches to defend against Y2K: the same separatist, bomb-shelter mentality which pervades so much of religious right culture.

The first stop on my cybertour of Y2K information was (www.garynorth.com), the website of Dr. Gary North, a leading Christian Reconstructionist and head of the Institute for Christian Economics in Tyler, Texas. (Not that one would know that by what's posted at the site.) This home page is a daunting rant of the direst predictions, supported by links to Ed Yourdon, the author of Time Bomb 2000 (www.yourdon.com), and many other similar sites.

Although acknowledging that he is not a computer expert (his Ph.D. is in history), Dr. North dazzles (or should I say stupefies) us with complicated technical economic and scientific language as he makes his case for impending disaster. Heck, it must be true, since I can't understand what he's talking about...His conclusion is clear, though: "Our numbers predict an 87% chance of a collapse of modern civilization." He also predicts the crash of the stock market and a major exodus of computer programmers (because they're tuned in to what's coming) months before Y2K doomsday.

Going on to the Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network site (see above), I did expect the same sort of crisis treatment, but actually found a wide variety of links to non-religious Y2K sources, including the American Red Cross Y2K page, and the Cassandra Project (www.cassandraproject.org), an Utne Reader-type site on Diglife.com. The Ed Yourdon site is also linked here, as is an intriguing site called (www.Y2Kwomen.com), where a marriage and family therapist is selling books and seminars about home preparedness. There was also a link to a website called (www.christiany2k.com) which would never come up on my computer. Coincidence? I think not! One probably needs a secret code...There are many opportunities to buy emergency-type supplies at this site, too.

The Focus on the Family website (www.family.org/fmedia/infosheets/A0003217.html) is in Fact Sheet format, with sales of book and tapes like Countdown to Chaos by Michael Hyatt. The information was focused on organizing churches for the crisis. I later found a website for the (webb.nfdc.net/churches/odbc/y2k/), which gives advice of this sort based on their experience:

If the grassroots organizing of the Cassandra Project is too liberal for your blood, head to (www.josephproject2000.org) to order President Shaunti Feldhahn's book, Y2K: The Millennium Bug--A Balanced Christian Response, or his tape, Why Y2K is a Christian Issue". You can also subscribe to Christian Computing Magazine at (www.ccmag.com).

The best way to be 100% prepared is to know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. Then you can begin to put into place your finances and computer software before the year 2000 bug bites you.

Open Door Baptist Church
Ted Derryberry's website (which sells prepackaged grain and other necessary supplies for survival during year 2000) had an interesting quote on its homepage: "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied his faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8" Talk about guilt! I looked this passage up in my King James, where it is worded slightly differently, and refers to taking care of widows. [Off topic: Interestingly, in the same letter, St. Paul also urges Timothy to drink wine, and says that slaves must honor their masters, especially if the masters are also believers...]

Feeling rather hopeless and anxious after my Y2K Christian surfing, I did run across a sermon by the Rev. Joel Miller from the Columbine, Colorado Unitarian Universalist Church (www.cuuc.net/Y2k.html) called Y2K: No Bomb Shelters, Please. It was very comforting, emphasizing that, while we cannot know what the glitches will be, the world will not end if people work together to solve the problems. This will be an opportunity to see what's really important, and to disconnect from our machine-driven lives for a while. Rev. Miller says, "I think it's immoral to prepare for the destruction of society".

I think he's right. After all, it's highly unlikely that the world itself will end on January 1, 2000! What the Christian Right is really selling, (along with bags of red wheat and food mills), is the idea of the Apocalypse. I'm sure they were selling that idea at the end of the first millennium. As my friend Michele Napolitano said, when I told her about my Christian Y2K web search, "It reminds me of how people always head for the grocery store anytime snow is in the forecast. People love to go into crisis mode. It gives meaning to their lives."

I can't predict what Gary North will do when civilization as we know it doesn't end with Y2K. He'll probably be taking credit for heading off the crisis with all his warnings! I only hope after this article that I'm not thinking of him or Pat Robertson at the stroke of midnight at my New Year's Eve party.

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