Fear, Uncertainty and DoubtBy Nathan Mates
One of the greatest mishaps of society to infect the Church recently has been the so-called "Year 2000" problem with computers, where improperly built and/or programmed computers won't handle the century rollover on January 1, 2000, and misbehave. As noted below, some have gone to extreme measures over this case, and while most of my responses are directed against those who've gone to the extremes, I do believe that they are Biblically based, and applicable to those who've gone for less extreme positions as well.
First off, I refuse to use the term "Y2K" to apply to this situation. "Year 2000" is short enough already without needing to be acronymized. But, from what I've seen in the messages of others, they use that term to identify those who've been infected with their particular spin on it-- "You don't know what I just said? Let me educate you..." is an opening line designed to stir up some interest in the listener, and redefine things to be on their terms. Use of it seems to be cliquish, and that does everyone a disservice instead of clear, open communication.
What I dislike most about the disaster types is that their message is primarily "Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt" about the future. [I borrow that term from computers & marketing, where 'FUD' is used to attack something without a strong factual basis.] Like Chicken Littles, stories abound of airplanes falling out of the skies, societal breakdowns, and your computer pouting in a corner until you buy it some new hardware. (Just kidding on that last one, and I fed my computers at home new hardware a few months ago.)
Is that fear, uncertainty and doubt truly the Christian message? Did Jesus ever say "When people miscalculate two millennia from my birth, worry"? Sorry, nope. The message started with: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." [Matthew 4:17b] The message we are to be spreading as Christians is the GOOD news of the gospel (gospel means good news, so I'm being redundant here)-- that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" [middle of 1 Timothy 1:15] We have a message from God, that God will save unbelievers, and give them eternal life with him. That's our message, not "society will disintegrate."
Next, consider Jesus's words on worrying: "So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." [Matthew 6:31-34] Is Jesus unclear here? What part of "Don't worry" doesn't get through some people's heads? This applies to the "tomorrow" back somewhere in the first century A.D., the day after Jesus spoke it, and it applies to the "tomorrow" on 12/31/1999.
Another thing the disaster types appear to be in violation of is trusting in certain material possessions. I've heard stuff like "This 55-gallon water container will supply you for X time" and "These foods will supply your family for a month." Now, compare that to God's word: "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." [Philippians 4:19] Again, what part of "all your needs" is unclear in the Bible? When did God tell people to take stuff into their own hands? That wasn't a good idea in the garden of Eden, and it hasn't gotten any better since then.
As noted in a previous writing, there are certain apocalyptic types who want disaster to happen because they can't seem to turn on CNN and get live footage of the Battle of Armageddon right now. They'd like everything to fall apart, as they're tired of waiting for God's perfect plans; instead, they'd like disaster to strike so that they'll be "hailed" as the prepared, and be the shapers and guiders of a new, Christian society. On the other hand, when Jesus chose to lead, he wrapped a towel around his waist and washed the disciple's feet. [John 13:1-17]
Some people'd like to have enough preparations so that if disaster strikes, they'll be able to feed neighbors, and also be able to evangelize with the feeding. Sorry, but I must have missed the passage in the Bible saying that evangelism can only take place after January 1, 2000. Those who put off evangelism until they're prepared are falling into Satan's plans: they've been made ineffective as witnesses for the truth. In the roughly seven months left, there's a good chance that some of your neighbors will move, die, or the like. And, witnessing procrastinated is the worst habit to get into, as many could decide to wait for the next disaster to witness. We are called to take the gospel to all nations, now, not later.
Closely tied in with the procrastinating evangelists are the total disaster isolationists, who've sold everything, and moved to a farm out in the boonies, trying to become self-sufficient while stocking enough guns and ammo to invade central Europe. What kind of evangelism opportunities do they have, miles from society, as opposed to their former lives, usually in towns or cities? Also, the media loves reporting on such people, though usually taking the opportunity to be critical of the religious connections and beliefs of such people. While parts of the media are biased against Christians to begin with, why give them any more ammo?
The isolationists are similar to the ones that Jesus warned about: Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."' "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." [Luke 12:15-21]
Some try and paint the message of fear, uncertainty, and doubt into saying "We're only trying to get people prepared for any natural disaster, like an earthquake or tornado." While that's far more probable of being a real occurrence, all of the publicity for this message is not "Disaster Preparedness." It's solely focused on the Year 2000 problem. As the publicity goes, so does the message, in my opinion-- they may pay lip service to disaster preparedness, but they usually want to try and sell you something about only one potential disaster.
Speaking as a computer programmer with years of experience, I'll just mention this: computer programmers are great procrastinators, but awesome for getting everything done at the last second. And, there've been several "milestones" met and passed so far. Europe managed to reprogram all its financial computers to deal with the Euro (new common currency) successfully. Airline reservations for 2000 went smoothly. Some financial years ending in 2000 have already started without problems.
This isn't to say there won't be some problems, but I think they'll be isolated and sporadic. The thing that needs "debugging" more than computers right now is humans. Computers don't have a builtin mechanism for panic on a message of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Computers don't spread such a message on their own. Computers, once they're fixed, stay fixed. Computers don't get drunk either-- note that 12/31/1999 falls on a Friday. With the partying atmosphere in today's society, I'd bet there'll be a lot of people still hung over on the following Monday. Compared to computers, lots of humans doing profoundly irrational things can break society much faster than computers. Bank runs, runs on food, supplies, and the like can be started, and become a self-fulfilling prophecy as people think there's a problem and rush out to buy six months worth of toilet paper. Getting people to act rationally in the face of problems is what should be done instead.
God's called us to spread His message. Not disaster. There's good news attached to our message-- eternal life for believers-- and only fear, uncertainty and doubt attached to the "Year 2000" disaster message. Are lives being transformed by God and the Holy Spirit coming into new believers by these Year 2000 types? I've seen almost none of that, and therefore the fruit of the message appears to be useless and unGodly.