Focus on Y2K: What If?

Published October 23, 1998,God’s World News SENIOR EDITION

Lubbock, Texas, has become the first city to practice for the coming emergency. Trouble is, no one knows what the emergency will be. Lubbock’s practice was focused on the possible attack of the millennium bug.

            “This is one disaster that we know exactly when it could occur,” said Lubbock city manager Bob Cass. “But we have no idea how bad it will be.”

            The “millennium bug” is often called simply Y2K (meaning Year 2000). The “bug” is expected to cause computer failures when the calendar hits 2000.

Many computer chips are programmed with 6-digit calendar codes that change daily. But what happens after 12-31-99? When the 99 rolls over to 00, computers with those chips may crash.

Millions of other electronic devices may quit too.

Some people think that Y2K will bring minor inconveniences. Others think it will set off the worst disaster in history.

For example, the bug could shut down power systems, water supplies, life-support machines, oil pipelines, navigation controls, and telephone services.

In Lubbock’s drill, no one knew what to expect. City officials were suddenly told that Y2K had shut down traffic lights and cut off natural gas for home heating. Also a winter storm had coated streets with ice and a prison riot had started.

Police and emergency workers had to act. But the Y2K bug had also shut down the 911 emergency calling system.

It was all pretend. But the city learned a lot about working together and dealing with the unexpected.

A Wider Look

There was something a bit foreboding about Lubbock’s Y2K disaster drill. It wasn’t about fixing crashed computers,

The emergency practice was simply about surviving the possible results of crashed computers.

And the practice was realistic in another way too. It did not deal only with the millennium bug. It recognized other parts of any lifetime too—like ice storms and prison riots.

The Lubbock approach seems like common sense. Real times of emergency usually aren’t predictable. That’s what they’re emergencies.

Would any real Y2K meltdowns be fixed soon? Many computer software programmers don’t think so.

They predict that the bug will cripple or even shut down electricity supply systems. If that should happen, it would be impossible to reprogram crashed computers.

Computers are like refrigerators. Pushing their buttons does nothing without electricity.

John Koskinen is head of President Clinton’s Year 2000 Conversion Council. He says the Y2K problem won’t be too serious. In fact, he says, “A lot of people won’t notice.”

A Congressional committee on Information and Technology, however, says that’s not true. Congressman Steve Horn of California heads up the committee.

He says Mr. Koskinen is just trying to cover up the fact that the Clinton administration hasn’t done diddly about Y2K.

Newsthink

Y2K is on the way. No argument about that.

We depend on computer chips more than most of us ever realized. No argument there either.

How should we prepare for Y2K? Ah, big arguments on that.

Am I going to answer the question for you? Yes.

But probably not the way you expect.

Getting Ready

I won’t be surprised if Mr. Koskinen is right. But many people are preparing for Y2K—just in case. Many Christians are among them.

That makes sense to me.

For one thing, the Bible tells parents to care for their families. That means being ready to protect and provide.

What if grocery stores close down—even for a short time? What if electricity and water are cut off?

It’s only wise to store up some extra food and water—just in case. Candles, batteries, oil lamps, and heaters (wood, propane, or kerosene) could be valuable too.

Being Responsible

Wait. That is not my answer.

I’m just saying there’s nothing silly about being prepared for emergencies. That’s why Lubbock held its Y2K disaster drill.

However, there is another—perhaps bigger—issue for Christians: Being responsible demands much more than self-protection.

The world talks like this: Store up plenty of stuff for yourself. Hide it in safe places. Buy lots of ammo. You may need to protect your supplies.

Better yet, move out into the country. You’ll be able to grow food. And you’ll be away from people who might want your goodies.

Storing Up

Jesus said, “Do not worry about tomorrow.” Does that mean don’t be prepared for tomorrow? No, it does not.

It means do not worry. Worrying displays lack of faith in God.

God will not forget about you. So, Jesus said, “seek first the kingdom”—not the things of this world.

That’s exactly what righteous Joseph did. Famine was on the way. No argument about how bad it would be.

So, Genesis 41:49 says, “Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, . . . so much that . . . it was beyond measure.”

A Right Spirit

Now my answer.

Joseph prepared. But he didn’t hide the goodies. And he didn’t plant machine gun nests around them.

Joseph’s preparation was not the “me first” kind. He prepared with a spirit of concern for others.

“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink” (Proverbs 25:21). And what about strangers who aren’t your enemies?

Go ahead and store extra supplies. Good idea. But prepare more than that.

Prepare yourself.

Seeking First

Christians focusing on hoarding, holding, and hiding are out of focus.

Hebrews 13:16 says, “Don not forget to do good and to share with others.”

Seeking God’s kingdom first may be hard. But that’s how to prepare for Y2K.