Date: Thu, 20 Aug 1998 18:21:07 EDT
Subject: [Atheist] re: AANEWS for August 20, 1998 (Part One)
from: AMERICAN ATHEISTS
subject: AANEWS for August 20, 1998
Y2K__Churches Prepare, Doomsday Chic
From AmericanAtheists News, No.469
20 August 1998
The text of Part 2, taken from issue No. 470, 20 August 1999, has been
simply appended here
"But suppose, as some folks say, the sky should fall?"
(Terence: "Heautontimorumenos" IV.iii)
The end of our century and the approach of a new millennium is a historic
event, and for many diverse groups it is one which resonates with special,
unique meaning. A growing segment of Christians__especially many those who
describe themselves as Fundamentalist, Evangelical or Pentecostal__perceive
this calendric shift, the onset of the year 2000, as a prophetic event to
usher in the "End Times" predicted in apocalyptic texts such as Daniel and
Revelation. New agers and contemporary occultists sense the new millennium as
an equally compelling benchmark in human history, although the scenarios they
embrace can be different from their Christian counterparts. Pop culture new
age ideology blends into its version of millennialist expectations elements
of UFO/alien abduction accounts, predictions of spiritual transformation where
humans rise to "a higher plane," or other artifacts of contemporary occultism.
There are also secular apocalyptics who fear that human society is rapidly
spinning out of control, headed for ecological catastrophe, nuclear war or
some other equally devastating scenario. Often, these different doomsday
"camps" appropriate thematic elements and metaphors from each other in
attempting to construct a millennialist narrative.
In recent months, AANEWS has noted a startling concern or angst percolating
through the religious Fundamentalist/Evangelical culture in this country
concerning the Y2K or "year 2000" computer problem. We examine this
phenomenon here, with special attention to how alarm over the Y2K "bug" has
captured the imagination of this segment of our society, and how it serves as
an expression of wider doubts about the direction of the culture at large. We
note how the attention focused on Y2K serves as an "entry scenario" for wider
and more diffuse apocalyptic beliefs, and how certain religious figures such
as Pat Robertson manage to fit this into a seamless political and social
Among the points raised:
Y2K is a "real" problem, not an invention of hysterical fundamentalists.
It is the willingness to embrace a series of worst-case scenarios and fit them
into a larger, more elaborated apocalyptic tapestry , however, connected with
Y2K that renders this an interesting topic.
Worry over Y2K reflects a pattern of searching for "signs" in order to
confirm the onset of prophesied events leading up to the End Times and final
judgment. Indeed, it has given a new lease on life for eschatologists like
Hal Lindsey and other doomsday belief peddlers. Pat Robertson's concerns over
Y2K are examined, as are the warnings from more extreme religious partisans
such as Christian Reconstructionist Gary North. Concern over Y2K has given
these individuals a wider audience than might otherwise accept their hard-
shell religious doctrines.
Nationwide, churches have developed a sudden and curious interest in the
Y2K problem, and are positioning themselves to discuss how "the role of the
church" is being affected. What began as a technical consideration has
blossomed into a wider expression of worry focusing on a deeper question --
the precarious instability of modernity and the human condition.
Some churches and religious groups, in an updated version of the cold war
"duck-and-cover" mentality of the 1950s and 1960s, are urging people to
stockpile food, medical supplies and other materials for the "chaos" that the
Y2K problem is predicted to ignite. Companies which sell freeze-dried foods
and other emergency provisions report escalating sales, much of it attributed
to sudden and growing panic over the Y2K. In certain respects, this mirrors
not only the doomsday angst which historians find in time of heightened
apocalyptic expectations, but the "survivalist" and "bunker" mentality
encountered in militia or other preparedness sects.
A word about this report is in order. In putting this story together, we
encountered an enormous amount of information, everything from news reports to
material on websites, in books and through other sources. Some of this
already fit in with a related project, namely tracking the building
"millennial consciousness" focused on the onset of the year 2000. The Y2K
worry, when viewed from a certain perspective, is part of this larger
phenomenon. We also consulted a number of Atheists who happened to work in
the field of computer technology; and we examined reports in the technical
field which discussed Y2K, though not from its cultural aspects. This is not
a story about the Y2K problem per se, but rather the reaction to it by a
segment of churches and faith groups; it provides insight into how these
religious groups perceive the immediate future, their relationship to
technology, and their expectations about the next millennium.
A Problem.... But How Big?
What is Y2K? Simply put, it is a difficulty with computer programs that
will not permit or "read" the year 2000 or "00" as an accurate date. To most
computers, dates like 1985, or 1999 are sorted only by the last two digits.
The implications for our computer-driven society are indeed significant.
Everything from the stock market to ATM machines to power plants, the IRS,
billing companies and inventory systems in stores all require accurate date
keeping. Smaller systems that might control your personal computer,
microwaves, even the elevator in an apartment or office building can also be
affected if they incorporate any form of date-keeping mechanism. A
programming oddity or glitch could make a computer read January 1, 2000
(01/01/00) as the year 1900.
Companies and governments have been furiously scrambling to address the Y2K
problem. Estimates on the total cost of fixing the glitch range considerably,
but one source notes that over $120 billion could be spent by the time the
millennium hits. One difficulty in evaluating the seriousness of the Y2K
problem is that doing so completely would itself be a considerable task. Even
research companies focusing on Y2K say that only about half of the nation's
250 corporate firms have disclosed adequate information about their programs
in this area.
The technical aspects of the Y2K problem is one factor which seems to fuel
the prevalence of "worst case" scenarios. Despite the fact that companies and
government agencies seem to be devoting considerable resources to addressing
this, Y2K may have been blown out of perspective. Our research encountered
repeated references, for instance, to a cyber "domino effect."
"One computer goes down, and because they're all tied together on the
internet, everything crashes."
This is certainly an oversimplification. We found that those employing it
often used other metaphors in addition to falling dominos, including the
failure of regional power grids and electrical "blackouts." Computers manage
much of the nation's technical infrastructure, but they not "tied together" in
a seamless network; often, they are separated by firewalls, even incompatible
For our purposes, whatever the extent of the legitimate Y2K problem,
certain religious groups and apocalyptic believers perceive this "Millennium
Bug" as not just a technical difficulty or engineering glitch, but as an event
which is part of a larger prophetic calendar and revelation, Y2K has become
an object of concern comparable to natural catastrophes, AIDS, regional wars
or other events which are hammered into a timetable to describe the onset of
Pat Robertson: Capitalizing (Shrewdly) on Doomsday
Pat Robertson's giant Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) is one of the
leading groups associated with the religious right now sounding an alarm over
the Y2K problem among this segment of Americans. In July, CBN aired a series
of special reports beginning with "Surviving the Crisis: How to Prepare for
Y2K." This was supplemented with both printed and web versions of the
Understanding Robertson's role in Y2K hysteria requires locating him on the
theological belief spectrum. Why would he be so focused and concerned by what
to many is a computer glitch? Robertson embraces a theological view known as
premillennialism, the belief that Christ's return (or "Parousia") will usher
in a 1,000 year period of godly rule on earth. There are "signs and wonders"
which announce the onset of this event as detailed in the apocalyptic texts of
the Bible, especially sources like Daniel and Revelation. Much of Robertson's
writings and the content of his broadcasts are devoted to finding and
discussing these "signs" which confirm the prophesies. Indeed, a wide range
of Christian groups believes that the passages in the Bible are to be taken
literally and describe real events which are to come. Some Christians reject
this view, arguing that the verses are symbolic and metaphorical, or that the
events described have already taken place.
Unlike brasher religious figures who rose and plummeted from fame by
predicting the end of the world__the mid-19th century religious leader
William Miller is often cited as a premier example__Robertson, while
constantly finding abundant confirmation of prophecy, often hedges his bets on
predicting a definitive timeline. Robertson has gone on record as expressing
his belief that the Antichrist, an important actor in the apocalyptic drama,
is on earth. In 1980, he declared that the Antichrist was "approximately
27-years-old...(and) being groomed to be the Satanic messiah." A similar
claim was made a year later by pop-eschatologist Hal Lindsey, author of
bestseller doomsday books such as "Beginning of the End," who, as we shall
see, has modified his original apocalypse timetable, and incorporated fears of
the Y2K problem into his latest End Times scenario. And in 1982, Robertson
warned that a Soviet invasion of Israel could set off world war and the onset
of Tribulation, the period when those of the true church are to be persecuted
by the earthly government and false church of the Antichrist and his False
Robertson often hedges his bet, though, deftly peppering his apocalyptic
narratives in print and on the air with conditional warnings.
"We can't really be sure, but..."
" It could happen..."
He also, unlike most of his evangelical and fundamentalist counterparts,
"packages" his message with slick production values. CBN News, which
presented the special Y2K report, has all of the superficial marks of a
legitimate network news program, including professional anchors, reporters and
video effects. Biblical prophesy and the rest of Robertson theological-
political message are neatly packaged with slick graphics and a degree of
informative reporting. Crisis__real, imaginary or exaggerated__is also an
important component in Robertson's delivery. Even natural catastrophe is
fitted into the televangelist's colorful and dramatic apocalyptic template.
On June 8, for instance, Robertson suggested that Orlando, Florida could
suffer punishment from God for displaying so much tolerance to gays. On June
24, during an airing of CBN's "700 Club," Robertson drew a link between the
gay pride events in Orlando, and the fires which were breaking out across the
state of Florida. And earlier this month, CBN news, in a story about the
coming Olympic Games slated for Salt Lake City in 2002, warned that the area
was "A Seismic Disaster in the Making."
The CBN "crisis" report, for instance, included detailed explanations of the
Y2K problem, along with selected quotes from other news sources including Time
magazine, and even interviews with technical experts, industry figures and
political leaders. It was the emphasis or "slant," however, that often
distinguishes Robertson's peculiar take on any political or social
development. As with reports on the Middle East, youth crime or political
scandal inside the beltway, there is a constant emphasis on the "crisis"
aspect of any story, and repeated oblique and direct references to worst-case
scenarios, and how this all meets the prophetic requirements of Biblical text.
CBN's initial installment on "Surviving the Crisis" touched on the need for
"people to get ready" by purchasing portable heaters (propane and wood
stoves), stockpiling large supplies of food and water, even buying portable
generators. Similar recommendations are being made by others in the religious
community who are sounding the Y2K alarm. Viewers and readers who might have
found these recommendations to be extreme, an overreaction, were admonished
that "it's better to be safe than sorry." Links from the CBN web site and
other religious web sites devoted to Y2K lead to several companies
specializing in survivalist paraphernalia, including wood burning stoves and
Other parts of the CBN report skillfully mixed informed reporting and even
credible information with the alarmist spin which characterizes so much of
Robertson's message. The June 2 installment began with a comparison of a
communications satellite recently failing and the Y2K problem, suggesting
"Many believe that's just a foretaste of how the Year 2000 computer problem
could affect our lives." Other metaphors included the 15-day UPS strike which
"cascaded throughout the country and affected thousands of businesses." CBN
viewers were warned that every conceivable part of the economy, from auto
production, to traffic lights, gas pumps, factory assembly lines, phones,
water and gas could all fail. "Few expect the world to stop on January 1,
2000" noted a CBN reporter, "but the many disruptions to the economy could
affect us all, reducing us to thousands of Lilliputians trying to tie down
this Gulliver of an economy."
Other elements in the CBN report which focused on the Y2K problem
incorporated dire predictions of banking system breakdowns (a scenario which
fits neatly with religious right fears of currency manipulation, electronic
transactions and 'the mark of the beast"), the collapse of the Internal
Revenue Service ("Time Bomb for Taxpayers") and a failure of the Medicare
system__this certainly being of vital concern to the older members of
Robertson's constituency. In "Countdown to Chaos: Preparing for 2000,"
Robertson interviews Edward Yourdon, software consultant and co-author of
"Time Bomb 2000: What the Year 2000 Computer Crisis Means to You." Where some
reports on the Y2K problem suggest that corporations are lagging behind in
their efforts to fix their computers, Yourdon covered all bases by admitting
that "most of the Fortune 1000 companies that are aware of this problem are
diverting between 15 and 20 percent of their resources" to addressing the
glitch. This was "taking away from other investments and new computer systems
they could have been building." Robertson also segued into mentioning another
player in the Y2K scene, Christian Reconstructionist Gary North.
"You know, I read a flyer by a guy named Gary North, which basically said,
'I'm getting a home in the northern corner of Arkansas, because they'll be
chaos in the cities and the trucks won't run, and the food won't be delivered
and grocery stores will break down, etc.' And you had a a few of those
warnings here in your book__what do you think? I mean, do you really think
we're going to have some serious chaos in this country when this millennium
Gary North__A Lean & Mean Version of Doomsday
Where Robertson walks a tightrope and is careful to avoid specific,
definitive predictions, Gary North has emerged as one of the more rabid
proponents of a doomsday scenario linked to the Y2K problem.
North is a leading spokesman for Christian Reconstructionism, an extreme
theological view which holds that Christians must "take dominion" over all
institutions of society, from government to the family. A tract on
Reconstructionism declares that it "is a call to the Church to awaken to its
biblical responsibility to subdue the earth for the glory of God... Christian
Reconstruction therefore looks for and works for the rebuilding of the
institutions of society according to a biblical blueprint."
That blue print is the Old Testament. Indeed, the Dominion theology of
Reconstructionism calls for a total transformation of civil society, and the
implementation of "bible law." As noted by sociologist Sarah Diamond in her
book "Spiritual Warfare, the Politics of the Christian Right," a
Reconstructed society would include wide use of capital punishment for a
variety of offenses including homosexuality, apostasy, blasphemy, murder,
adultery and even disrespect to parents. While they have theological
differences with other religious right movements and groups,
Reconstructionists agree with their ideological brethren that it is the task
of Christians to "occupy" and transform all institutions in our present
Christian Reconstructionism has been described as a "hang-tough" theological
position. Unlike Robertson's premillennialist theology, Reconstructionists
embrace "postmillennialism." Under this view, the return of Christ will not
occur until after a 1,000 year period during which Christians "subdue" the
earth and its inhabitants, and reconstruct society along Old Testament lines.
North's attachment to the Y2K "crisis" is somewhat at odds with other elements
of Reconstructionist dogma which tend to be less frantic and more long-range
in their thinking and timetable, than are the tactics of other organizations
on the religious right. Even so, Reconstructionists like North can see a
widespread and calamitous Y2K event as a trigger in mobilizing some
Christians in preparation for establishment of Bible law throughout the
culture. And his popularity as a drum beater about Y2K positions Gary North as
the new leader and natural successor to the movement's aging patriarch,
theologian writer Rousas John Rushdoony. Rushdoony has penned several dozen
books and founded the Chalcedon Institute, a locus of Christian
Reconstructionist theory and activism. Diamond quoted North as suggesting,
"Rushdoony is the Marx of this movement. I'm trying very hard to be the
North has assembled an enormous quantity of material about the Y2K problem
which he distributes through publications and his web site at garynorth.com.
His prediction for the post-year 2000 world is one of serious doom and gloom.
"Because the year 2000 begins on a Saturday, millions of victims will not be
aware of their dilemma until the following Monday or Tuesday," he writes.
"They will pay no attention to advance warnings, such as this one, that they
are at risk..."
North incorporates the domino effect as a metaphor in his predictions,
calling it "one gigantic 'etc.'" He also mentions the "butterfly effect," a
reference to scientific models involving initializing conditions in dynamic
systems. North suggests that this "butterfly effect" will, for instance,
trigger a run by Japanese on unliquid banks resulting in a selloff of U.S.
debt related instruments. "The dollar will fall. Meanwhile, the run will
spread to other nations."
Mr. North also goes into excruciating detail of how a Y2K crisis could
trigger unforeseen consequences in other areas. In one projection, the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission shuts down atomic power plants which supply
approximately 20% of the generated power in the U.S. This triggers a
catastrophic series of events leading to bank failures and power black outs.
"Every computer in the country (goes down), compliant or not. And if they all
go down, nobody will be able to repair any of them. There is no tomorrow if
the national power grid goes down on January 1, 2000."
North's scenarios essentially describe the death of technical civilization
and, presumably, secular society. In one section of "Blind Man's Bluff in the
Year 2000," North even attempts to incorporate stages which psychologists have
identified in the psychological constitution of terminally ill patients,
including "awareness," "denial," "anger," "bargaining" and "acceptance" into
his description of how congregations might react to the Y2K crisis. North also
predicts that in the months prior to January 1, 2000, "the world's stock
markets will have crashed." due to currency withdrawals, thus triggering
another series of devastating "dominos."
"I don't expect you to believe me... yet," admonishes North.
North's prophetic writings are circulating widely through much of the
Fundamentalist and Evangelical community, and his materials have appeared in
the burgeoning numbers of web sites, seminars and special meetings being
organized by church groups. Churches in the Vineyard Christian Fellowship,
for example, a movement which grew out of the "Jesus Movement" of the 1970s
and now has links to other groups like Promise Keepers, are offering special
Y2K "preparedness seminars" across the country.
"Last Days"__One Of These Days...
Another religious activist expressing prophetic concern over Y2K is Hal
Lindsey, author of best selling doomsday books like "The Late Great Planet
Earth." Lindsey has focused on many of the geopolitical events which have
appealed to Pat Robertson and others, such as the 1948 birth of the state of
Israel, and subsequent military confrontations in the middle east. With the
passage of time, however, he has also had to alter his apocalyptic timetable
concerning "the last generation" and other eschatological minutia.
Despite many unsuccessful predictions of catastrophic events, such as a
Soviet invasion of the middle east or war with China, Lindsey__like new age
psychics__finds an inexhaustible supply of both old and virginal material to
recycle and fit into ever-changing prophetic scenarios. He appears frequently
in articles and programs about "the final days." Nearly thirty years after
making his initial mark as the nation's foremost pop culture eschatologists,
Lindsey was featured in programs such as the CBS network special "Mysteries
of the Millennium" which aired in May, 1996.
Lindsey's warnings about the Y2K problem echo the scenarios hinted at by
Robertson, or luridly portrayed by Gary North. His "End Times Intelligence
Digest" mixes news on Y2K with themes such as "Earthquakes, famines, wars,
plagues, strange weather" and "Mystery Babylon, the False Prophet, One World
Church." Lindsey is also compelled to postpone and update his predictions
concerning Armageddon. Unfounded, thirty-year old warnings about Russian
invasions are discarded in favor of more contemporary doomsday fare. In
"Planet Earth - 2000," Lindsey discusses "Berserk global weather, the crime
explosion, the spread of occultism, out of control drug abuse, what does it
Internet Prophets of Doom
As with rumors about the crash of TWA Flight 800, UFOs, miracles or
political assassinations, the internet has become a lively transmission belt
for warnings about the Y2K problem. Many are written from a religious
perspective, and fuse the technical language of Y2K with a relentless battery
of references to Biblical verses. The most extreme and calamitous scenarios
and descriptions seem to characterize these cyber prophesies and alerts, as in
one aptly titled "A Warning to America, Y2K disasters and much worse to come,
soon." It vividly describes a Road Warrioresque, post-apocalypse future,
"When the economy crumbles, you lose your job, and you can't pay your
debts, to whom will you turn? When the natural disasters that are coming
disrupt all kinds of production and transportation and the grocery shelves are
empty, how will you feed your family? When you have no electricity or heat
for months or years, what will you do...?
The blame is laid at the doorstep of the Y2K bug. "Trains and planes will
not be operating... Power plants will shut down... There will be no water for
bathing, drinking or toilets. Sewage plants will not operate. The telephone
system will shut down..." Recipients of the Warning are urged to withdraw
from stock, bond and commodities markets, "go to cash and gold and silver
bullion coins," stock up on food, water and vitamins, and remember that "Guns
and ammunition will be essential for self defense, especially in or near big
All of this is said to fulfill Bible prophesy, especially Amos 3:7, "God
does not do anything without telling His prophets first."
"Numerous Christian prophets from different churches and denominations are
generally predicting the same following events..." Strangely, what follows is
a list of calamities which seem to link Fundamentalist scenarios for doomsday
with more arcane predictions from new age sources, including writers like the
late Edgar Cayce. "Record-breaking" earthquakes hit the Pacific Rim, wipe out
much of Japan... Numerous volcanic eruptions will add to the destruction."
The United States literally splits in two, and major metropolitan areas such
as St. Louis, New Orleans and Chicago are inundated water.
Not all Christians, including those sounding the alarm about Y2K, embrace
such a catastrophic view of the future. But the "Millennium bug" is a hot
topic on Christian radio where warnings about Y2K reach a large audience.
Beverley LaHaye of Concerned Women for America recently completed a full week
of her regular programs which were devoted to the subject. Elsewhere, in
print and on the internet, there is debate on how the church or individual
Christians should "respond" to the Y2K problem or "make preparations." In
"What Should Christians Do About Y2K?" the faithful are reminded that "The
first step in preparing a congregation is to assure them that such
preparations are biblical..." Quotes from the New Testament books of Matthew,
John and other sources are then used to construct "A biblical defense of Y2K
preparation," actions which include stocking up food supplies in warehouses
(Malachi 3:10) or fleeing life-threatening situations (as in the accounts of
Peter and Paul).
Doomsday As A "Growth" Industry
"Family Preparedness Now!" promises one company experiencing booming
business thanks to concern over the Y2K problem. Websites, publications and
reports from Christian groups worried about the catastrophic and biblically
prophesied fallout from the Millennium bug are directing the faithful to a
slew of resources and companies selling everything from freeze-dried food to
other "emergency" supplies like water purification systems and generators.
"Dare Christ Call us to Retreat?" asks Christian Perspectives on Y2K, while
suggesting the services of firms like the aptly named "Y2K Foods." The list
of crises which demand an immediate order is extensive; "None of us are exempt
from an emergency whether it be from natural causes such as floods, lightning
caused fires, droughts, earthquakes, pests, tornadoes, hurricanes and tropical
storms, or from economic and medical crises such as from job loss, injuries,
chronic illness; or from political caused problems like increase in taxes,
inflation and recession; or something unexpected like being stranded in your
broken down vehicle in the middle of nowhere with no immediate help in sight."
Those ordering the "emergency" stockpiles are purchasing "peace of mind."
One firm even offers a pyramid marketing arrangement (popular in some segments
of the evangelical subculture as is typified by the involvement of Amway
Corporation," where a motivated doomsdayer can "Prepare 2 who Prepare 2 and
EAT FREE!" For the unconvinced there are training seminars, a motivational
Conference Call, and special videos.
Perhaps the best description, though, of the emergent Y2K religious mindset
is typified by Gary North, who declares, "Be afraid, be very afraid."
Understanding The Hysteria...
While there are indeed legitimate concerns about the Y2K problem, it is the
context in which this event is framed which challenges Atheists and others
seeking to understand this new social hysteria which is now percolating
through segments of the religious right. Our examination suggested several
Y2K "preparedness" reflects human doubts and our ambiguous relationship
with technology. It both liberates and binds us. The alarming scenarios
described by Robertson, or even luridly anticipated and welcomed by some
Christian Reconstructionists or militia-survivalist groups, may be said to
describe the demise of an "unnatural" order of machines, industrialization and
emphasis on science and commerce. This contrast of modern and "corrupt"
civilization with an earlier (and now, future) Golden Age of purification and
innocence resonates in many sacred texts, including the Old Testament.
Y2K is a "lease on life" for many apocalyptic believers, and their
spokespersons, who for years__even decades__have sought to interpret
current events in terms of Biblical prophesy. Surveys have suggested that
startling numbers of Americans (up to 40 million by some accounts) believe
that "ours is the last generation" before the unfolding of events described in
Daniel and Revelation. Given the demise of earlier apocalyptic scenarios
involving the former Soviet Union and "godless communism," Y2K is a convenient
candidate as a touchstone for prophetic concerns. Interestingly, Hal Lindsey
has shifted his focus in writing from the moribund Soviet imperium to an
Islamic Empire. This reflects the constant hunt for suitable candidates which
describe the Antichrist__Nero, Adolph Hitler, Stalin, Henry Kissinger,
In addition, the more extreme attitudes enunciated by Reconstructionists
like Mr. North seem to suggest a staggering loss of life, an "accounting" and
punishment of the evil and wicked while those who prepare for this calamitous
faithful__survive. This is the essence of Tribulationism,
a period of widespread agony and suffering necessary to punish the wicked and
those who reject Christ. The emphasis on the collapse of city environments
in particular, and the fact that safety and survivability occur in the
countryside, suggests a rejection of cosmopolitanism and urbanism.
Significantly, anti-modernist movements have often focused on the city as a
metaphorical "cesspool" of unnatural human arrangements; sometimes, the city
is identified with a demonized social group, such as blacks, gays, or Jews.
Indeed, the "punishment" of the Y2K bug could serve as a substitute for divine
wrath in the forms of AIDS, the Holocaust or some other form of persecution.
It is noteworthy that in Pat Robertson's case, the Y2K Millennium bug__while
not fatal to civilization, perhaps__underscores the inherent weakness and
corruptions of urban culture. Robertson has incorporated themes from earlier
anti-Semitic writings and tracts into his other materials, such as "The New
World Order." Whereas these earlier sources identified the "City" as the
realm of money-peddlers, degenerates, Jews or other villains, the "City" of
today is transformed into the realm of commercial secularism and technology --
reliance on reason and the mind, rather than direction from god.
Finally, Y2K is part of a larger development, an emergent millennialist
consciousness, a sense that the year 2000 (or some approximate date) is a
benchmark not only in our calendar but human history as well. While the date
is certainly unique to us, previous periods have been characterized by a
similar sense of dread and anticipation. Often, apocalyptic yearnings
betrayed deeper concerns about the human condition and fate. William Miller,
who attracted tens of thousands of followers with his predictions about the
end of the world in the mid-nineteenth century, lived at a time of social
dislocation and change. Often, deep cultural and social changes betray
themselves in outbursts of political zealotry, religious fervor or, in our
case, millennialist anguish.
(Thanks to Larry Mundinger and Don Rivers for background and help with this
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