Art by Bob AulThe odds of the world coming to an end on Jan. 1, 2000, currently stand at a million to one. That's according to Costa Rica-based online gambling firm NASA International (www.betonsports.com), on whose page you can wager on the likelihood of various disastrous and not-so-disastrous Y2K scenarios. Other bets include the odds of a commercial airliner crashing somewhere in the world due to Y2K bugs (300 to 1), a 200-plus point drop in the stock market (30 to 1), and an increase in the number of guns sold in December 1999 (-200 to 1).
Oh, and the chance that aliens will land at the White House on Jan. 1 stands at 100,000 to 1. Just in case you were wondering.
Folks seem to have gotten a lot cheerier about Y2K over the past few months. There are still a few stocking up on Uzis and freeze-dried foods and heading for the Ozarks, but the ranks of those considering the survivalist route have dwindled. A survey conducted in September by Internet marketing research firm Greenfield Online showed that 85 percent of respondents thought the Y2K thing was just way overhyped. And in a survey conducted by the Information Technology Association of America, only 7 percent of respondents thought they would experience major Y2K problems.
This is a far cry from, say, a year ago, when practically every TV news show, magazine and newspaper was doing pieces on stockpiling guns, buying generators and moving to Wyoming; when a fair chunk of our citizenry was plotting a run on banks and toilet paper; and when quite a few Christians were announcing that Y2K was the Big One, the End Times, the Rapture, Armageddon.
Irvine resident Nathan Gopen, for one, likes the optimism. Gopen is the owner of Diadem Productions, a software company that produces multimedia CD-ROMs devoted to books of the Bible—including Revelation. About a month ago, Gopen decided to do what he could to spread the calm among his fellow Christians and posted an essay on his company's Web site (www.diadempro.com) titled "Why Y2K Is OK."
"The Bible does not specify anything significant about the year 2000. There is no specific time given for the second coming (in fact, Jesus specifically says it will be at a time when the unbelieving world does not expect it)," Gopen wrote. "However, we can state with certainty that Jesus will not appear in the year 2000, nor will the battle of Armageddon happen then. There is a well-documented set of events, trends and courses of prophecy that need to take place before the 'grand finale' of God's plan."
"I felt that there tends to be a large bias toward Y2K panic for a lot of ministries trying to capitalize on the sensationalism of it," Gopen said. "That's kind of a sad situation. Speaking as a software engineer, I think the hype has been overstated; it's more constructive to give people encouragement."
Gopen's efforts to spread what he regards as the Good News—that while Armageddon will come eventually, this ain't it—mirror a general trend in the Christian community away from the wilder predictions of gloom and doom. Indeed, some religious figures who previously made rather apocalyptic claims about the impact of Y2K are now backing away from them. In a three-part sermon on Y2K delivered in August 1998 (and later released on video), Jerry Falwell suggested that Y2K was God's way of giving our morally and spiritually corrupt nation a divine noogie. "It is easy to look at this wealthy, powerful nation and our wicked leadership . . . and wonder if there is any hope for America," he said. "Is there any way God can get the attention of this mammoth superpower nation? I believe the answer is a resounding YES! God can send natural disasters that literally devastate us. God can send war. God can send economic collapse . . . overnight . . . instantly. God may use Y2K to crush us and prepare us for revival!"
But in May, Falwell told the editor of Christian Computing magazine that he no longer believes that. "While I expect Y2K to be annoying and somewhat disruptive, I do not expect it to be as serious as some are projecting, or as I first feared possible," he said in a fax.
This renewed optimism in the Christian community is reflected in the secular community as well. Peter de Jager, the man who in 1993 first woke the world up to the potential disaster contained in the Y2K bug, announced in August that when the clock rolls over to midnight on Dec. 31, he'll be on an airplane winging its way to London. Five years ago, he quipped that the only way to get him in an airplane on that date would be to hand his wife a check for $50 million—and make sure she'd already cashed it. Senator Robert Bennett (R-Utah), who heads the Senate committee on Y2K and has traditionally been one of the government's crankiest critics when it comes to Y2K preparation, is sounding a much less dour note these days, predicting only short-term disruptions in the U.S.
All this sunny optimism—or, at the very least, reduced pessimism—must really be baking the shorts of the panicmongers still grimly predicting doom. Gary North, the Nostradamus of Y2K, still maintains on his Web site (www.garynorth.com) that civilization will come to an end in the next three months or so. "Months before Jan. 1, 2000, the world's stock markets will have crashed," he writes on his site. (They'd better hurry.) But North is an optimist when it comes to pessimism: in January, Wired News pointed out that North claimed in 1980 that nuclear war with the Soviet Union would destroy civilization; in 1987, it was AIDS. North makes no particular attempt to highlight his religious beliefs on his Y2K site—for good reason. North is a Christian Reconstructionist who believes that in order for the Second Coming to occur, there must first be a thousand-year reign on Earth by Christians. And, hey—it'd sure be a lot easier to take over the government if it had already collapsed.
But, as Time magazine dryly commented at the beginning of the year, North must have confidence that the U.S. Postal Service will survive the apocalypse: he's still offering two-year subscriptions to his newsletter.
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Gopen says that Christian doomsayers like North are not representative of the Christian community as a whole as we approach the new millennium. "The buying-rifles-head-for-the-hills-stockpile-weapons-fight-the-government-tooth-and-nail movement isn't a proper Christian attitude," he said. "Unfortunately, it's a very vocal and noticeable segment. And it casts us in a very negative light—as negative as shooting abortion doctors.
"When you sit down and study [Revelation], there's a very well-laid-out sequence of events and signs," he added. "A lot of it hasn't happened yet—the temple would already be built in Jerusalem, for example. It's impossible for years' worth of stuff to happen in the next few months."
Good news for all of us.
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