Preparing for Possible Disaster
G. I. Williamson
By this time you are no doubt aware of the rising crescendo of concern about the Y2K ("Year 2000") problem, also called the millennium bug. Somehow, we are told, the brilliant people who launched us into the computer age made a gigantic mistake when designing software by using only two digits to designate years. Thus, many computer chips will not run properly past the stroke of midnight on December 31, 1999, interpreting the next year, "00," to mean 1900! According to some computer experts, we are rapidly approaching an electronic doomsday, when the whole fabric of our electronic and computercontrolled infrastructure may experience a colossal breakdown.
Well, what should we Christians do? Should we head for the hills? One influential writer of Reformed books has indeed moved to a rural setting and installed equipment to ensure that, whatever happens to others, he will have his own private sources of water and energy.
I'm not heading for the hills, in part because I do not have the financial resources to do so, even if I wanted to, but also because I do not think that that would be the scriptural response. Let me explain why.
Our Lord said, "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt. 10:28 NKJV). This means that the only fear that should dominate our lives is the fear of God. If we live with a proper fear of him, then no other fear will ever be allowed to dominate us.
Not so long ago, it was the AIDS epidemic that generated fear in the hearts of many. Some were predicting a calamity worse than some of the plagues of the past, such as the great bubonic plague in Europe. But God in his mercy has not permitted an AIDS calamity on that scalenot yet, at least. God is still sovereign, and if it is his will to chasten our nation with such a calamity, then that is what will happen. But I have no divine revelation to tell me infallibly that he will do this. And since I do not have such information, I do not see that it is my duty to make definite or allout preparations for it.
The same may be said for the Y2K problem. No one really knows how serious it is going to be. No one even knows for sure that the Lord will not return before December 31, 1999. However, I certainly do not think we should ignore the rising crescendo of warnings. But neither do I think that we should treat them as oracles of certain truth.
No doubt we should all take prudent steps to prepare for various calamitiesboth natural and technological. Within the last few years where I live, we have seen unusual damage from both snow and flood water. And so it seems prudent to me to have some extra food on hand, stored in a relatively safe place. Depending on your climate, it may also be wise to have some kind of backup method of heating.
In one of the United Reformed Churches in our area, the deacons are working to enhance their ability to give assistance to members of their church, should the need arise. Perhaps a number of churches could organize a line of defense against a possible power outage, especially for elderly church members.
But I would also remind the readers of New Horizons that there are other calamities that may well be worse than anything Y2K can bring. Is it true, for example, that 60 percent of the people in America today do not care if the President has lied while under a solemn oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Is it true that a large majority are now willing to have a double standard of moralityone for the President of our nation and another for everyone else? If this is anywhere near the truth, there is more reason to sound the alarm about the moral decline of our nation than even about Y2K. There is always the danger that prophets of doom may distract us from the greater danger by overemphasizing the lesser.
But, again, I emphasize that I am not saying, "Do nothing." Most of us do not have the resources to head for the hills, nor should we. We do not need a siege mentality that is firmly set even before there is a siege! No, we need a prudent corporate effort to use shared resources to ensure the safety of the community of which we are a part.
We sometimes hear it said that there is little for our deacons to do today, because of government welfare programs. If Y2K turns out to be anything like what the more alarming predictions foresee, we will need not only the resources of the state, but alsoand perhaps even morethe resources of the faithful churches. Here, if ever, is a place for the deacons to rise and shine.
Mr. Williamson is a semiretired OP minister. Reprinted from New Horizons, March 1999.