Churches face year 2000 bug

November 25, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

The Rev. Jack Meikrantz looked at his parishioners at Liberty Christian Fellowship Church in Charles Town, W.Va., and discussed the proper Christian response to the Y2K problem.

For the uninitiated, Y2K is computer lingo for the programming flaw that could wreak havoc in the year 2000.

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To save space - and money - in the early years of computers, dates were abbreviated to two digits. The fear is that when the calendar hits 2000, many computer systems will recognize the date as 1900.

The consequences of that are unknown to even the most savvy computer experts.

While preachers often draw on current events for their sermon topics, it might seem odd to focus on the year 2000 computer problem.

But Meikrantz is one of a number of Tri-State area ministers who have preached about the millennium bug and other issues surrounding the end of the 20th century.


"As the leader of a congregation, I have an obligation," he said.

For Meikrantz, the important point to get across is that Christians should take the issue seriously but not panic.

"Our trust isn't in circumstances; it's in the Lord," he said. "You want to be teaching people in a way that they are not fearful about what could happen."

Other area ministers have used the Y2K computer problem as a metaphor.

"I introduced it because it's something a lot of people have heard of," said the Rev. Mark Walters, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Smithsburg. "There's really a different Y2K problem The Y2K problem I was thinking about was the millennial angst."

The turn of the century and the end of the millennium tends to produce anxious speculation among humans, Walters said. The danger, he said, is becoming too hung up on the year 2000 and what it means.

"Good, sensible people of strong faith have believed they were living in the end-time," he said.

Martin Luther was one of them, Walters said.

But Walters said Christians should live in the present and not become obsessed with the future since it is impossible to fully understand God's plan.

As for special meaning in the year 2000, Walters said many biblical scholars believe the date of Christ's birth was miscalculated by four to six years.

"Which means that the millennium has really come and gone," he said. "There's nothing magical about this number. It's really a manmade construct."

More than a metaphor

Some area ministers, however, have focused on Y2K as more than a metaphorical issue.

Meikrantz, of Liberty Christian Fellowship, said he initially dismissed the year 2000 problem. But after studying the issue, he became more concerned about the chaos that might result.

Will bank vaults automatically open? Will airplane guidance systems crash? Will prison doors swing open? Will electrical system fail?

"Then we're into scenarios that are totally unpredictable," he said. "The more people look at it, the more we ought to pay some attention to it."

Meikrantz said he saw a program about a man who has dropped out of society in a remote location in the West as a response to Y2K.

As Christians, that is not doing God's work, he said. The challenge is striking a balance.

Meikrantz said he has decided to treat the turn of the century as if he were preparing for a prolonged storm. He said his family plans to stock up on enough canned foods to last a month.

That way, Meikrantz said, his family would be secure from unforeseen problems. And since Christians are their brothers' keepers, he said his family will be able to help others in need who are not as prepared.

"It's the first time in my lifetime - and I don't know if there's ever been a time - when there's something that is coming up that we can either blink at or blow out of proportion," he said.

The spiritual, the physical

The Rev. Ray Phillips, pastor of Community Mennonite Church in Boonsboro, also has preached about the situation.

Phillips said he has faced skepticism from even some members of his own congregation, but he stressed that it is his duty to warn his parishioners.

"Basically, it's a trigger, or it can be," he said. "It's going to be a very serious time of judgment for mankind, but also an opportunity."

Phillips said he believes the computer glitch could usher in a collapse of the Western economic system. If that happens, drastic government response - including marital law - could follow, he said.

Amid that chaos, Phillips said Christians need to be prepared. He has passed out a handout to his congregation instructing people to stock up on nonperishable food, medical supplies and alternative sources of heat and light.

But preparing for physical needs is only half the battle, Phillips said.

"Most people look to the practical, but I recommend they look first to the spiritual," he said. "(God) is the greatest resource in the universe."

Phillips said he sees biblical parallels to the year 2000 computer problem. While many might scoff at preparations, he noted that Noah's contemporaries ridiculed him when he built his ark.

"This is not a matter of extremism or panic," he said.

The comparisons do not end there, Phillips said. He said there has been a general cultural breakdown in the United States, where many have embraced abortion and homosexuality. At the same time, life has grown easy and few Americans know true hardships, he said.

"People have become complacent spiritually. They have become complacent in many ways," Phillips said.

Perhaps the world is ready for a shakeup, Phillips said.

'Hope and joy'

Despite those concerns, Phillips said he remains full of "tremendous hope and joy" because of his reliance on God.

Meikrantz, too, said people's salvation rests with the Lord.

And what if nothing happens on Jan. 1, 2000?

"My response is: 'Praise the Lord,'" Meikrantz said.

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