Y2K--APOCALYPSE OR OPPORTUNITY?
“The Hopes and Fears of All the Years”
(O, Little Town of Bethlehem)
Perhaps a brief trek through the intellectual and cultural turning points might help locate the origin of the Y2K challenge. Christianity engaged and won victories for the largest empire that was ever created--The Greco-Roman Empire. The Christian community of the second to the fifth centuries contextualized the Gospel with pagan learning. From Nicea to Chalcedon the Church used the tools of the receiving culture to ultimately win the entire Roman culture for Christ. After Constantine I’s conversion to Christ until the time of Augustine the new cultural expression of the faith was called Christendom culminated with the coronation of Charlemagne in 800 A.D. The Roman Catholic Church (not yet separated from Eastern Orthodoxy, primarily over the Papacy) controlled every parameter of Western culture (Roman Catholic sacerdotalism controlled every cultural institution from the womb to the tomb). The Monastic order probably rescued The Church from moral decay (Benedict’s Rule, 530 A.D.). The beginning of Protestantism was expressed at the Diet of Worms in 1521. Into this potential breakdown entered the founding of the Jesuits in 1540 A.D. As the narrative displacement of the Western Christian civilization intensified in the new pietism of the Wesleyan Movement in 1788. Discontent continued to gain momentum and found ultimate expression The French Revolution (1789). Within one century Western civilization experienced the Wesleyan revival, the French Revolution and at the top of the 20th century was the Russian Revolution.
Within three centuries from the Renaissance (the recovery of Greek philosophy), the Reformation (the recovery of the priority of Scripture) and the Enlightenment (autonomous reason against revelation and faith), to the first scientific revolution (Galileo, Newton and Kepler). The most fundamental revolution in history occurred in the first Scientific Revolution. The Scientific Method was now the only source of attaining “True Truth”. Biblical revelation, authority and inspiration of scripture, miracles, etc., were called into question and adjudged to be based on ignorant superstitions. Christianity was pre scientific in its assumptions about the origin of the universe, man and all social institutions. The breaking of Christendom fragmented Europe into wars, state churches, world wars and urbanization. The radical scientific and technological successes were the foundations of four fundamental assumptions of Modernism (Classical Liberalism): (1) the complete animality of man, (2) the inevitability of progress through science, technology and education, (3) the inherent goodness of man (contra sin, guilt, lostness) and (4) the perfectibility of man. Man through his scientific success would create the new world, the new self, the new global village. Freud’s architect of Modernity (change agents) were (1) Copernicus (he removed the center of the universe from the earth to the sun and the centrality of man and God’s concern for the earth); (2) Darwin (the Origin of Species) presented man as an animal in the evolutionary chain); (3) Marx--though not mentioned by Freud (reduced the human scene of alienation to socio-politico economical being). Man could be “redeemed” only by a new socio-economico environment. The cause of human alienation was the socio-economic environment of Christianity and capitalistic democracy, and (4) Freud: reduced the Christian faith to neurosis and pathology, i.e., sin, guilt, redemption was reduced to psychoanalytic categories. These intellectual giants have shaped our postmodern culture, as well as Keynes and Skinner. The temple of modernity was finished. The characteristic of this phenomena are: (1) Moral relativism, (2) Autonomous individualism, (3) Narcissistic hedonism, (4) Reductionistic naturalism.
The amazing scientific developments of the 20th century seemed to confirm this humanistic optimism. The equations of Einstein (Plank/Heisenberg, et.al.) changed our world into the nuclear age. But soon even the “autonomous voice” of mathematics would be challenged by Goedel’s attack on Russell and Whitehead’s Principia. The 19th century tension between Historicism (cultural), Historical Relativism and Positivism would be replaced by Post Modernism’s claim that all thought is socially constructed (are the DNA periodic charts decoded or constructed?) (eg., the origin of is Kant’s First Critique). (See my paper “Origins of the Sociology of Knowledge Thesis: The Social Construction of All Reality” (note the indication for our Restoration Heritage and the development of multicultural pluralism).
Perhaps the most fundamental revolution that impacts the Christian faith is the neurophysical/biological revolution because it denies the existence of the person and reduces the mind to the brain to a low grade computer, i.e., a machine. The Turing Machine does not make man a machine, because it was a man who conceived the machine. Now we enter Bill Gates’ computer revolution and the educational revolution in learning by computer. You cannot learn character, justice, etc., from any computer circuit. Why all the furor about Y2K? If there is not “True Truth” why the concern about losing stored data and records? If none of the data is True why worry about losing it? If man is nothing more than a handful of dust and a micro dot, why all the “hopes and fears of all the years”?
The radical, cultural changes in the 1960s and 70s, i.e., birth control pills and penicillin made sex possible without fear of pregnancy and venereal disease; Woodstock (make love not war); the Korean and Viet Nam wars. The radical changes from the counter culture through the influence of Reich, Toffler, Marcuse, and Ferguson each precipitated resurgent New Age Occult Phenomena, the outbreak of the influence of Eastern religions, radical shifts in Media and educational models (Outcome Based Education, Goals 2000, SCANS); the vehemence of the hostility against all perimeters of social structure (multicultural paradigms), i.e., schools, government, family structure, anti science, revisionist history. The invasion of the therapeutic culture was ordered by consumerism, of Keynesian economics, the origin of development of buying on credit (credit cards) which supposedly precipitated economic growth in global economics. Y2K is the technological culmination of our Post Modern culture. Into this maze we dwell in our rudderless culture without a moral compass. Y2K is a technological computer age problem but it is fundamentally a moral problem. How did the Church address all of the shaping cultural phenomena of the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and how will it address the 21st century?
Y2K presents another major potential cultural spiritual crisis. The Counter Culture of the 1960s produced birth control pills which precipitated the sexual revolution. This sex revolution produced the AIDS revolution of the 1970s. This decade expressed a radical paradigmatic shift in the nature of the family. It was the Woodstock generation which expressed anti institutionalism, e.g., family, school, government, the university and science, the irrational foundations of our post modern culture. The high priests were Reich, Marcuse, Toffler, Ferguson, et.al. Here the seeds were planted for postmodern multiculturalism and neo tolerance. The anti war generation were personally the most immoral generation in American history, yet they opposed the Korean and Viet Nam wars. An important note is that we have many 1960 Generation X hippies now in Washington, D.C. running our government and teaching in the universities. The 1990s is the first generation that rejects moral norms, yet have an unfounded moral agenda. This expression of moral decay is evidenced in the O. J. Simpson trial, President Clinton’s impeachment decision, the Waco disaster and the murders of the high school students in Littleton, CO. The expression in J.J. Rousseau’s Emile is declared by Hillary Clinton when she wrote in her book, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Yet parents are responsible. In our nation of victims, who is to blame? In our culture, the educational gurus declare that man is genetically and environmentally determined.
So far the cost for Y2K has already cost THE POSTAL SERVICE approximately 500 million dollars; GENERAL MOTORS plans to spend up to a half billion dollars; CITIBANK could spend 600 million; the HEALTH CARE INDUSTRY estimates 6 billion; THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT projects as much as 50 billion will be spent. Senator Bill Bennett asserts that Congress cannot keep the year 2000 from coming. But the 50 billion dollar budget will insure that the transition from December 31, 1999 to January 1, 2000 will be as smooth as possible. Senator John Ashcroft (R Missouri) passed legislation to help prevent Y2K computer problems. The legislation included The Information and Readiness Disclosure Act that is “intended to remove legal barriers that could interfere. . . from doing everything possible to eliminate year 2000 problems before they happen.” Chairman Bob Bennett (R Utah) states in his document A Special Committee on the Year 2000, “This is a management challenge that must be addressed by the highest CEO’s immediately. (For more information on what they are doing contact WWW.senate.gov/-Bennett/Y2K.html) One of the results of Bennett’s influential work was President Clinton appointed a Y2K Czar John Roskinen. Since then, Roskinen has testified before numerous committees and panels addressing the Y2K bug. Bennett does not expect the Y2K problem will be fixed by 2000 and thus it is impossible to predict how many computer systems will shut down on January 1, 2000. Congress has placed 3.25 billion dollars into an emergency fund available to federal agencies for Y2K problems. But this amount is surely not adequate to address the potential problems. Christians must not respond in either of two extremes--total despair or neutrality.
Y2K in The Post Modern Culture of Cliches
“We can shoot rockets into space but we cannot cure anger or discontent.” (John Steinbeck) We are living between the “Hopes and Fears” of the 18th and 20th centuries. This period is a radical divide. The exact moment of transition into the modern and postmodern culture is not difficult to discern. During the period between 1815-1830 the English speaking nations increased their dominance in the world. At the same time, the Spanish empire in South America was breaking up, the industrial revolution was getting under way and something like an international culture was beginning to emerge. The second scientific revolution was beginning its transformation between 1890-1900 through advances in medicine, transportation and generally accelerated technological change. Cultural clues of the “brave new world” were signalled with the first exhibition of post impressionist art in London in 1910, though it was only in the 1920s that this new world really took root in Britain, Europe and America (see esp. Paul Johnson, The Birth of The Modern World Society, 1815-1830 (NY: Harper/Collins, 1991); and David Babbington “Evangelical Christianity and Modernism” Crux 26 (June 1990): 2). Progress entails the uprooting of much that has given its stability and meaning (see esp. Christopher Lasch, The True and Only Heaven and Its Critics (NY: W.W. Norton, 1991): 147). Solzhenitzin, Spengler and Sorokin describe our time as “A World Split Apart.” Jacques Elluh has spoken of the “betrayal of the West by a corrupted intellegentia.” Philip Rieff has said of the elaborate act of suicide “carried out by intellectuals as they have mutilated the workings of culture by destroying the possibility of authority.” Carl Henry said it was “the end of the West;” Richard Weaver has spoken of its “dissolution.” Robert Heilbroner has spoken of the “indefinable unease” that haunts the post modern spirit as the realization sets in that all the material and technological gain of recent years leaves the self empty. Pope Paul II has spoken of the “anti civilization” and “anti culture” of the postmodern West which was nurtured by those who were blessed by its material abundance. These prophets all provoked at least some melancholic pronouncements about the prospect of survival. All of these and dozens more have sent a message of alarm.
The Enlightenment world liberated us to dream of the world’s renovation and of ourselves at its center, standing erect and proud (Paul Johnson, Modern Times: The World From the Twenties to the Eighties (NY: Harper, 1983)
Decay or Renewal: Crisis Is An Opportunity
When we trust in anything other than God, we are not just adding a false hope to our real hope; we are actually displacing God from the center of our lives. Let us hear the words of our Lord again when He said, “O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.” (Matt. 23.37)
“It is not only technology and self sufficiency that we have begun to worship. For a moment, put aside thoughts of the Y2K bug and take a wider view of where we are as a national and global community of believers.” (Shaunti Christine Feldhahn, Y2K: The Millennium Bug (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Press, 1998), p. 142).
As Israel and Zephaniah had spoken to a prosperous nation with no sorrow for its sins: “Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled. She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord, she does not draw near to her God.” (Zeph. 3.1-2) Israel’s security and wealth had made it complacent. Almost all of Israel’s entire history was spent trying to fuse idolatry and worship of Yahweh. “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3.7; see esp. Isaiah 1.16-20; Luke 12.40-43; 45-48)
Response to God’s call for relationship will empower Christians to respond to the emotional and spiritual crisis of Y2K (Zeph 2.3-7) The call to repentance is not politically correct but is ultimately so that God might again will visit his people. Most of the experiences we will encounter in the year 2000 will be involuntary. Some of the power points of preparation for encountering Y2K are: (1) Be debt free, (2) Maintain good liquidity, (3) Be diversified, (4) Don’t panic--trust God and be generous, (5) Maintain information records, (6) Store necessities, (7) Assess household vulnerabilities, (8) Check your personal computer and software, (9) Store necessities, (10) Prepare financially (See S.C. Feldhahn, Y2K: The Millennium Bug (pp. 159-176)
In our culture governed by Gallup, we are faced with Y2K at the turning point of the 21st century. The slightest knowledge of computer technology is a direct challenge to our postmodern Y2K maze. We have lost our souls in cyber space. In the gospel according to Gallup a constant factor in polls taking is that 40% of those reached will refuse to participate. Non-response doesn’t effect the results. Gallup polls start with a computerized list of all U.S. telephone exchanges. The computer then generates a list of residential numbers from those exchanges, including unlisted numbers. Widespread response to the Y2K bug is conducted by such biased poll taking. The wording and order of questions can also affect results. “We should listen to the views of people outside of Western society in order to learn about the cultural biases that affect us.” Post modern speak would change views to voices or better, vocalities. Add an adjective like “intertextual” and you are covered. How about “post colonial others.” To speak postmodern properly one must master a bevy of biases besides the familiar racism, sexism, ageism, etc. For example, phallogocentricism--male centeredness combined with rationalistic forms of binary logic. Post modern translation would sound like intellectual, male vocalities of post colonial others outside of Western culture in order to learn about the phallogocentric biases that mediate our identities.” Responding to Y2K But with an impressive utilization of prefixed, post, hyper, pre-de, dis vocabulary learned at the feet of postmodern masters, such as Barth, Foucault and Derrida. How are we to enter the world of Y2K with vocabulary like pre-post spatialities of counter architectural hyper-contemporaneity? This whole garbled mess is enunciated in a de-gendered Baudrillardian discourse of granulated subjectivity. “You should be able to hear a post industrial pin drop on the retrocultural floor.” (Stephen Katz, Associate Professor of Sociology at Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada).
Imagine facing the present cyber space babel crisis with a postmodern vocabulary. Why if it is, is Y2K a Christian problem? Naturally, we would expect an epidemic of literature on this issue and our expectations are not disappointed (see the bibliography at the end of this paper).
In Whom Is Our Trust? Y2K--Apocalypse or Opportunity?
In the maze of progress came the influence of Darwin, Marx, Biblical Critics, i.e. assured results of “scientific hermeneutics of suspicion” and the ensuing computer revolution. Our world is “post Puritan, post Christian, post modern, post industrial, post business, post Vietnam, post Watergate, post cold war, age of revisionist history, anti science and especially the Death of True Truth/objectivity and into this chaos enters multicultural pluralism preaching the “gospel” of tolerance. What does all this have to do with the potential cultural significance of Y?K?
How can the Church address the challenge of the coming of the 21st century? It is much more complex than any brief, superficial statement can address. The year 2000 is much more than a public quandary to be attacked and resolved with out usual ingenuity. While ours in the first generation who statistically (polls) decide moral/truth questions. The 18th century polarization of public and private realms have come home to roost. What one does “privately” is no one else’s business, as long as it does not hurt anyone. What? Though this sounds like concern for consequences, this generation is America first who has an agenda without any foundation in a received “metanarrative.”
Christians should be the most interested people concerning the potential cultural/personal consequences of Y2K. In our consumer culture will we hear again, for the first time, the great message of II Chronicles 7.14--“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.” Surely our post modern culture has stooped to the moral decadence expressed so long ago in Isaiah 7.7-9,11,12. The Bible instructs the people of God “to keep yourselves from idols.” (I John 5.2) We must not worship or trust in so many high technology products, other than God. The millennium bug is not a surprise to God. The problem is not just a thorny problem to solve or a political inconvenience, but potentially another idol worshipped in The Temple of Tolerance. If internet technology is our god, perhaps the Christian response should be to bring down its influence in our daily lives.
Why do we get nervous when the banks could fail? The more prosperous we become, the more we depend on our investments, our savings account, our easy access slush funds. What would be our response if our ATM or credit cards no longer worked, or worse yet, the bank could not function fast enough to meet our needs? Take the Y2K Christian Challenge and ask yourself whether we have frustrations derived from negative predictions. Our hope is grounded in our sovereign Lord and we are not lost in cyberspace. We must put our trust and the search for security in God.
The Y2K project has ended in the grand vision of modern/post modern philosophical bankruptcy. Modernity has died a million deaths, but is post modernism well equipped to positively engage the enormous cultural challenge of the twenty first century? In this dark picture we are faced with Y2K, but our Lord has survived modernism and He will survive post modernism. Do not despair about the potential cultural chaos precipitated by Y2K. Our faith in Christ can empower us to live victoriously through all the “Hopes and Fears of all the years.”
As disciples committed to the lordship of Christ, we must read the times that Y2K precipitates. Let us hear the challenging words of C.S. Lewis as we enter this coming period of history--the twenty first century.
“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English evangelicals who abolished the slave trade, all left their mark on earth precisely because their minds were occupied with heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one. Aim at heaven and you will get earth ‘throw in.’ Aim at earth and you will get neither.”
(Margaret Shuster, Fuller Theological Seminary, in The Living Pulpit, January-March 1999)
James D. Strauss
Lincoln, IL 62656
RESOURCES TO GUIDE THE CHURCH TO
A CONSTRUCTIVE VIEW OF Y2K
Setting Up A Joseph Project 2000 Group. Contact Joseph Project 2000 at 6400 Bells Ferry Road, Woodstock, GA 30189 (Fax 678-445-5503) (see p. 223 of Feldhahn)
The Shaunti Feldhahn Newsletter, Y2K Countdown. A monthly newsletter, Multnomah Pub., P.O. Box 2174, Sisters, OR 97759
Jim Lord, P.O. Box 84910, Phoenix, AZ 89071. Book, A Survival Guide for the Year 2000 Problem: Consumer Solutions ($37.97)
Michael Hyatt, 1888 Y2K Prep.www.Michaelhyatt.com. Resource: Manual and tape series, Countdown to Chaos, David Dunham, editor. $89.00 complete set; $59.00 for the resource manual alone (see pp. 223-235 in Feldhahn)
Useful Basic Books
Haven, Mark D. Bridges to Accessibility (Project Adventure, Inc., 1992).
Brinkley, J.W. Student Legal Rights with K.C. Crump (on a Public School Campus) Roever Communications, P.O. Box 136130, Fort Worth, TX 76136 (817-238-2005)
Gauss, James F. Y2K, Crying Wolf or World Crisis (Bridge Logon Pub., 1300 Airport, Suite E., North Brunswick, NJ 08902).
Kellner, Mark A. Y2K, Apocalypse or Opportunity (Harold Shaw Pub., Wheaton, IL).
U.S. Federal Government information directories WWW.at policy.g/san/gov./mkr/epr 2000/Home
James F. Gauson, Ph.D. Y2K on World Crisis; plus Free Manual on Family, Community, Business, Church, Internal Standard Book number