Christians Prepare for Millennium

Associated Press/October 5, 1998

Denver-- Forget the fact that computers could collapse on Jan. 1, 2000. Remember that those computers allow the movement of power through utility grids, groceries to store shelves and money through your checking account.

That, anyway, is the message from many Christians who are making a wide variety of preparations to supply themselves and others if those feared problems develop.

One of the messengers is Chuck Missler, who held a recent seminar. "Proverbs 27:12 says, `A prudent man foreseeth the evil and hideth himself.' That means,'' Missler explains, "a prudent man takes action.''

Some are stockpiling food, buying generators, putting cash away, installing solar panels, preparing to purify water to drink.

Whether it's TV evangelist Pat Robertson urging viewers via satellite to "wake up'' or the Colorado Christian News calling it "the most exciting time since the Pentecost,'' the issue is the story of the hour among the Christian faithful.

Hugh Davis doesn't believe society will come to a screeching halt. "However, I do believe there will be disruptions of critical components of daily life: transportation, banking, telecommunications and the power grid.''

Before dismissing Davis as a camouflaged crank, consider that he's a mild-mannered engineer for one of America's most respected computer networking giants. He's not talking about black helicopters and government plots.

He's basing his expectations on what he sees every day while looking into the guts of complex software programs.

The actual problems from the change may be little or a lot; only time will tell. The problem is that experts are frantically trying to rewrite billions of lines of computer code and replace millions of embedded chips to make certain computers don't read the change to the year 2000 as a change to the year 1900. Most computers read a year by the last two digits.

Some say it's possible that entire computer networks will shut down that midnight, sparking a chain reaction of system failures at power plants, airports and banks, in elevators, jet planes and traffic lights.

At Missler's recent conference in Denver, Dena Mohr was selling a water purification system for $199.95.

Elsewhere in Colorado, Larry Smith sells a program that can test computers for their compliance with Y2K fixes. He also sells survival food kits that average about $1,500 a year for one person. "We take the approach that if you're prepared for any emergency, then you don't have to play on people's fears,'' Smith said.

Even firearms are being hoarded. "I've got Christian friends who are stockpiling guns ... and putting these away in barns out in the country and burying them in the ground,'' says Joel Belz, publisher of World Magazine, which covers news from a Biblical perspective.

Some churches also have begun stockpilling. Bill Mindel of the Harbor Light Community Chapel said his congregation is buying 20,000 pounds of wheat and vast amounts of beans.

"Christians have picked up on this early,'' says Joann Chiarello Bruso, editor of the Colorado Christian News, which has a readership of 40,000 people along the Front Range.

"Evangelical people have been watching end-time events since the birth of Israel, so we are looking toward a one-world government some time in the relatively near future. Something like Y2K could bring that about more quickly,'' Bruso says. "That's not a good thing.''

Many Christians also believe the Y2K attention is a good platform from which to speak their beliefs.
"They see the `Year 2000 nightmare' as an opportunity to save souls,'' says the Institute for First Amendment Studies, which monitors conservative Christian broadcasts and publications.

At Colorado Springs' Focus on the Family, spokesman Paul Hetrick said Y2K is "an opportunity disguised as a problem.''

"Right now, our American culture is a kind of self-sufficient, self-oriented, self-gratifying, and one tends not to consider God,'' he said.

"Y2K could change that and create a situation where people have needs they maybe only read about before as happening in Third World countries. This could be seen as a wonderful opportunity for Christians to help people right here in our country.''

And some are not just hoarding to protect themselves. "I'm going to share,'' said Bob Simms, of Lakewood. "That's what the Bible tells us to do.''

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