THE Y2K MELTDOWN OF CREDIBILITY
by Tal Brooke
SCP Newsletter, WINTER 1999, Volume 24:2

On New Year's Day, Internet newsgroups were flooded with messages like: <<Y2K is a hoax! We have all been duped!>>

I received a flood of emails reporting pretended catastrophe. One read, <<I don't know about you, but I have no electricity, no water, no internet access by normal routes. Anticipating the collapse of civilization, I sent this e-mail from a typed paper done on an old hunt-and-peck typewriter by carrier pigeon over a week ago to you. It was sent to a service in San Francisco and hand delivered INTO your machine, while you slept, to appear as if it was a "real" e-mail New Year's day. The service will repair your lock if they broke it getting in during the night. >> I smiled.

I had already made my public stand in the Fall, saying in the SCP constituency letter:

The key is engaging one's culture and not retreating due to fear, shame, or some announced catastrophe (of which the latest is Y2K). We would prefer take our chances in the arena than risk being sidelined at the height of our ministry. And it is a risk worth taking, especially when doom-sayers have been wrong repeatedly over recent years. . . We will not pull away from the front line until God convicts us on the deepest level (Note: We have seen doom-sayers and their followers later emerge from their bomb shelters and rustic hideouts in the past, and the world has usually passed them by while they have forfeited the chance to be relevant to their own generation.).

Deborah Hastings of the Associated Press, on Jan. 1, 2000, reported what had become obvious:

"As midnight arrived in country after country, there were no terrorist attacks, no Y2K meltdowns and no reports of mass suicides among doomsday cults. Instead, seven continents stepped joyously into the 21st century. Computers guiding air traffic, electrical power grids and military operations slid smoothly into the year 2000."

Unprepared countries--from China, Russia, Malaysia, India to the Philipines--had minor problems if any. It was a non-event, though not for everybody.

Prophets of doom have grown increasingly strident in warning of impending catastrophe the moment the clock reached 2000. People were advised to sell their houses, quit their jobs, liquidate all assets and run to the wilderness to survive the "meltdown of civilization."

SCP was warned to quit the ministry while we could, that for us to go on working in the face of this cataclysm was "to live in denial." Several well meaning doomsayers projected that race riots in Oakland would kill us if the cessation of all utilities didn't. Such warnings carried a tone of "I dare you to join us, the true remnant living on the edge." Yet with "friends" like that, who needs the Deceiver? (That's the real point!).

The false prophets (and their disciples) have recently challenged those doing God's work to abandon their calling under God (while they look forward to the cataclysm ahead as an adventure).

Arguably the loudest voice among the false prognosticators is Dr. Gary North, who made a point of being the first to see the disaster while putting his reputation on the line in a bold proclamation that could do nothing but start a panic among those who believed it:

"At 12 midnight on January 1, 2000 (a Saturday morning), most of the world's mainframe computers will either shut down or begin spewing out bad data. Most of the world's desktop computers will also start spewing out bad data. Tens of millions--possibly hundreds of millions--of pre-programmed computer chips will begin to shut down the systems they automatically control. This will create a nightmare for every area of life, in every region of the industrialized world." --Gary North

North's trademarked term for this event was "the Y2K meltdown of civilization." As with his dealings in previous situations, there was a monetary aspect for North, including a retreat center (handled by an intermediary) at Prayer Lake, Arkansas, where the elect could buy their land and prefab houses and watch the meltdown of civilization safely from Prayer Lake--a scenario worthy of Saturday Night Live (imagine the Hell's Angles coming in with shotguns & axes.).

Stanley Dokupil, a member of the SCP staff fifteen years ago, told me on the phone several years ago, "After North panicked us to buy diamonds, and I lost a fair amount of money, I knew he was bad news. He has been making money off catastrophe at other people's expense for years." One true believer was aware of North's penchant to stampede the herd, but defended Gary North with an ironic chuckle, "What's so funny is that Gary North has cried wolf repeatedly over the years, but this time he is right!" Wrong! He missed again. The moral of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, was that when the real event finally happened, no one believed the messenger. He had lost all credibility.

North and others who stampeded the herd in the Y2K panic have done untold damage to countless lives, starting with those who bought tons of survival food, borrowed money, quit their jobs, and sold their houses retreating into the wilderness. The "Christians" who screamed the loudest have ensured that the name of Christ be held up to public ridicule once again (that some New Age or secular experts claimed the worst is no defense for them.). They have added one more false prophecy, in the eyes of the public, to a litany of them in our time--from wrongheaded rapture preditions to 2nd Coming dates--none of which have come true (The penalty for false prophecy was execution in the Old Testament, and some of these people have used up more than nine lives.).

In one Internet posting related to Y2K and deception, a man reported hearing astounding things from a some leader. Speaking obvious falsehoods in some tent in the Midwest, his audience believed him even though such lies were preposterous and could only be believed by a leap in gullibility. The skpetic was amazed as he saw true believers willing to accept absurdities as a test of faith and loyalty in exchange for a sense of group belonging.

He suddenly saw an important dynamic of deception: the speaker told an obvious lie and the audience swallowed it whole to demonstrate their loyalty. In exercising the faith of children, they joined a privilged elite. How many times has this happened? (the same dynamic was horribly illustrated at Jonestown, Guyana, where 900 people died from believing Jim Jones' lie.).

The latest rash of false prophets & prognosticators are a public embarrassment, a spectacle. Claiming unique insight, if not revelation from God, they have cried wolf on a vast scale. As a result, the world mocks them, their God, and other Christians who had nothing to do with the hype. Predictably, these false prophets and their true believers will soon begin spin doctoring. Blame will be skirted as they eye the horizon for the next "cataclysm." Don't be surprised if North and his fellow prophets for profit take credit for having averted the disaster by their warnings (Note: nations that barely did a thing had no Y2K meltdown!).

This costly diversion--let's call it Y2K folly--has done harm in another way, apart from scandalizing Christendom. It has provided yet another distraction from the responsibility of living the genuine Christian life. Gone are self sacrifice, love, discipleship and the need to be salt to one's generation--the very virtues that fired the great missionary movements. Hudson Taylor, William Carey, CT Studd, and Eric Liddell among many others, followed the "great commission" to evangelize the world. It was a costly faith and they were willing to pay the price. They expected the Lord to return at some point but that did not distract them from their mission. They went on with their lives acting as credible voices in their own generation, being careful never to bring dishonor to the name of God.

Nowadays, the Great Commission has all but disappeard, while God's name is being misrepresented constantly. It is a meltdown of the Faith --Tal Brooke




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