Posted in: Current Issues

Y2K and Christian Credibility

Copyright 1999 by Bob and Gretchen Passantino(1)

I’m having a terrible problem in my life. Lately I’ve been researching the whole Y2K issue and its possible effects on us and now I’m scared to death and my life is a mess. . . . What also scares me is that most Christians seem to feel we are doomed. I’m at a point where I don’t know what to do anymore. I’m so depressed and scared I can’t eat, sleep, or function like a normal person. I don’t even find any comfort in God anymore. . . . Am I alone in feeling this terrified or are there others out there that feel like me? I feel like I can’t go on if things get as bad as they predict. . . . Christians like Dobson, Falwell, and Missler seem to feel we are in for our downfall. I feel like I’m losing my sanity but I can’t seem to help it. It’s like everything I read on this subject is proclaiming the worst and there is no hope. I feel helpless.

Over-reaction? Paranoid personality? “Loser”? Or is this a credible consequence of irresponsible Christian leaders promoting unrealistic fear, propagating false stories, and promising insider information confirming that Y2K will be, as alarmist Gary North notes, essentially the end of western civilization as we know it? Over the past year we have carefully, methodically, and exhaustively researched every aspect of the Y2K problem. We are convinced that it is a problem that is being dealt with in America so effectively that it will cause only isolated, relatively minor problems well within our ability to address, compensate for, and fix.

Why did it take so long? Not because it was so difficult to understand, so complicated, the information was censored, or the experts inaccessible. It took that long to track down and evaluate the hundreds of rumors, stories, false statistics, and misleading arguments propagated by major Christian personalities like James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy, Chuck Missler, Michael Hyatt, Donald McAlvany, Grant Jeffrey, and Gary North. Now we can say with confidence that it is nearly impossible to find even one event promoted by Y2K alarmists that is told accurately or implies what they tell people.

Here’s an example. In the current (July 1999) issue of Chuck Missler’s Personal Update news journal, staff Y2K expert Gordon McDonald writes, “In the event it is necessary to take emergency action, it becomes quickly apparent that ‘turning off’ a nuclear power plant is not a simple operation. Once the fuel rods have been removed from the core, it takes a full five months to cool them down to a temperature in which cooling systems are no longer required. . . . In these five months, the plant is dependent on off-site electrical power. If that power becomes unavailable, maintaining a stable shutdown mode falls to the reliability of generators” (p. 14). Sounds scary, right? Check the facts (such as on the Y2K page of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission website, Nuclear reactors can be shut down in a few minutes; it takes only a few days of powered cooling; all reactors have multiple power grid connections to protect them from one or even more than one power grid failure; all reactors have multiple backup generators with double the amount of fuel necessary that are tested regularly. McDonald and Missler should have known better.

On his June 21, 1999 Audio Central Y2K update message, Gordon MacDonald responded to those of us who criticize Y2K alarmists like him and Chuck Missler.(2) None of his arguments or evidence were convincing or accurate. Space precludes our discussing his defense that almost every time Jesus or his apostles quoted the Old Testament they took it out of context, so critics have no business criticizing him for taking verses out of context for Y2K or his other defenses, but here’s an example. He proudly reports that the critics haven’t dared to respond to “a real Y2K event” like, he said, the Peach Bottom, New Jersey nuclear power plant incident that “shut the whole thing down for over seven hours.” Wow! But again, check the facts. Peach Bottom is in Pennsylvania, not New Jersey. The incident involved at test of a plant monitoring system; it was caused by human error, not a Y2K computer error; it only affected some monitors in the control room, not the backup dials, gauges, or switches; and the monitors could have been correctly reactivated almost immediately but technicians spent seven hours tracing the problem and then ensuring that it could not happen again. Plant spokesman Michael Wood said, “It wasn’t as if everything in the control room shut down. . . . [The problem affected] two computer monitors in the midst of hundreds of gagues and other instrumentation.” NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said it was a result of human error: “Even though it was Y2K-testing-related, it wasn’t Y2K related.”(3) Again, McDonald and Missler should have known better.

And yet, as McDonald re-iterated on this program, we are supposed to turn to him and Missler to know what to think about Y2K, because they have inside sources, confidential information that enables them to bring us the best reliable information. Don’t believe it. They and other Christian Y2K alarmists are making merchandise by promoting fear, paranoia, and distrust of common information sources. The person at the beginning of this article was exploited by such irresponsible “yellow” journalism. Here’s how two other victims responded when they discovered they had been misled.

We feel violated by the people we trusted. We feel angry toward them and foolish for having listened to the advice. However, we bear the responsibility for the action we took. We got caught up in the hype and fear to the point we did not hear the Lord.

1. Adapted from July work in progress for Cornerstone magazine. For a great education in critical thinking to protect yourself from sensationalism like this, get Bob Passantino’s Fantasies, Legends, and Heroes: How What You Know May Not Be So for a suggested donation of $7.00.

2. “Y2K As A Divisive Agent,”

3. Both are quotes from the Philadelphia Inquirer, March 9, 1999 (

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