(This originally appeared in the Spring 2000 edition of the MCOI Journal)
ABC News planned a global extravaganza—live coverage of the turn of the millennium from around the world. We slept through the ﬁrst wave of the century rollover coverage—even the “end of the world as we know it” takes a back seat to our beauty rest! But in the morning, when we signed on to check our e-mail, we found we had received a note from a friend in New Zealand, where they had already passed the mark. He assured us the lights were still on, the homes were warm, the stars hadn’t fallen out of the sky and, in short, the day was very much like any other they had seen. But that was New Zealand—who knows what would happen when the new century dawned on civilization.
We let the exuberant coverage run throughout the day, and we periodically checked in to watch the various celebrations that were happening around the globe. (London had the most awesome display in our opinion, but Paris and New York were lovely, too.) As the day wore on, the news reporters actually seemed to be a bit disappointed because nothing of real note, aside from the beautiful displays of ﬁreworks, happened. No nuclear meltdowns, no nuclear missiles homing in on our town, no airplanes falling out of the sky; we didn’t experience even the slightest inconvenience! The microwave oven, all of our cameras, video equipment, as well as our computers, all greeted the new century with a collective yawn. Our stupid machines didn’t even seem to know what year we were in and certainly didn’t care!
We couldn’t help but wonder throughout the day how Michael Hyatt (and others who had proﬁted so handsomely from their false predictions of doom) were faring. Would they be quick to admit their error—perhaps even offer some monetary compensation to the folks who had been hurt by their “advice?” As it turned out, some of the prognosticators were fairly quick to admit their error, but others have egregiously attempted to fudge the issue and/or even take credit for the smooth transition.
Michael Hyatt, one of the leaders of the Y2K pack, asked this question very soon after the world made an uneventful transition from 1999 to 2000,
“Was the Y2K problem overhyped? I don’t think so … Regardless, if we had not sounded the alarm and brought focused attention to this problem, things may have turned out much different.”1www.michaelhyatt.com/
Was the Y2K problem over-hyped??? Is the Pope Catholic? Of course it was overhyped! Think about it—if the alarmists are the reason the Y2K bug didn’t “bite” in the developed world, why did it not bite in countries where no alarm was sounded? Remember the ridiculous “embedded chip” bogeyman? How did raising the issue affect the outcome there? The embedded chips are still embedded, and life goes on as before. As most of our readers know, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc., Personal Freedom Outreach, Answers in Action, Steve Hewitt of Christian Computing Magazine, Dave Hunt, and a few other ministries spent time attempting to calm people’s fears by calling for the Christian community to practice discernment about the claims that were being made. We received a number of phone calls, e-mails, and letters from programmers who thanked us for giving a balanced and researched presentation.
We also caught a fair amount of ﬂack for “criticizing fellow Christians” and even for taking a position at all. Were we wrong to take a position? We do not think so. It is our God given responsibility to warn the ﬂock to hold on to their ﬂeece! And, we decided long ago that we must either be willing to criticize problems and false teachings within the church or quit criticizing JWs and Mormons. Fair is fair… Nevertheless, since we did not join in the fearful chorus, we were, to a certain degree, affected ﬁnancially over the course of the year.
People Were Hurt
There is no question many people were ﬁnancially hurt by the hysteria surrounding the whole Y2K “scare-nario.” In the days following the big non-event, at least one newspaper reported on many disillusioned folks who had gone into debt—spending $20,000-30,000 on preparedness items with which they now do not know what to do. Some who had pulled out of the stock market early in the year and invested in gold lost a lot of money because of that ill-advised decision. Others pulled their life savings out of banks (which were predicted to fail) and were robbed.2Daily Herald, January 4, 2000: section 4, p.1-2
For some Christians, the devastation affected more than their ﬁnances. Some who were quite vocal about the need to stockpile have found their reputation damaged and their ability to share the gospel with their lost friends and co-workers hampered.
Michael Hyatt, who strongly encouraged people to prepare for chaos, admitted this to be true in a letter to Steve Hewitt. He wrote:
“I am very sorry about those who now feel that they were hurt by their preparations. I have corresponded with some of these people. Some went into debt to make preparations and are now struggling to meet their ﬁnancial obligations … Still others allowed their preparations to cause a rift in some of their most significant relationships and are going to have difﬁculty recovering.”3www.gospelcom.net/ccmag/y2k/michaeltosteve.html, Michael Hyatt’s letter to Steve Hewitt, pps. 2-3
Many are emotionally hurt, feeling foolish, and wondering how Christian leaders—Hyatt and others—could have been so wrong on this issue. Some folks have said this whole thing has made them cynical and distrustful, and they are wondering if they will ever trust “Christian leaders” again.
We cannot assign motives to Hyatt, Missler, and the rest of the Y2K brigade. It certainly does not look good that they proﬁted handsomely from the panic they generated, but they seemed sincerely convinced everything they were saying was true, and that civilization was doomed. But, however sincere they may have been, they were sincerely wrong, and as such, they bear responsibility for the hysteria they generated. Moreover, some continued fanning the fear and proﬁting from it long after they should have known that Y2K was just not measuring up to their dark predictions. As late as June 1999, when a number of his predictions had already failed, Hyatt’s ad in World Magazine states:
“Get Your Y2K Food from Someone you Know and Can Rely On … As the reality of Y2K approaches, food is certain to be the issue that causes the greatest panic … any widespread emergency—like the Year 2000 computer crisis—or even just the fear of it could cause people to start buying out of panic rather than careful planning. Then, the food supplies we all take for granted would vanish overnight … But for you and your family, security is just a phone call away. With an investment like long term food storage, make sure you know who you’re doing business with.”4Michael Hyatt ad from the World Magazine, dated June 19, 1999 (Bold italics added for emphasis.)
“The nerve!” as my mother would say. Scare folks to death, proﬁt from that fear, and then attempt to proﬁt further from the fear of the fear you have induced—whether or not your original predictions come true! That’s cheeky. In this ad, Hyatt offers food supplies at $3,395 plus $280 shipping, and says, “ORDER NOW. Time is not on your side!” I don’t know what circles all of our readers travel in, but I don’t know many people with $3,675 to spare. It is difﬁcult to soft peddle it—regardless of his motives—it would appear Hyatt proﬁted from the fear he engendered in the people who trusted him.
Hyatt seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth at present. On the one hand, as we have already shown, he does express regret that people went into debt because of his prognostications. Yet, he attempts to deﬂect any responsibility from himself by saying:
“I am truly sorry for this, but I strongly counseled against these actions, both in my writings and in my public pronouncements.”5www.gospelcom.net/ccmag/y2k/michaeltosteve.html, Michael Hyatt’s letter to Steve Hewitt, p.3
Each one of us is responsible for the decisions we make, but realistically, could any such caveats have been heard by anyone who really believed what Hyatt taught? After all—who is going to worry about going into debt when they have been convinced their children’s lives are at stake? Who would have collected on the debt anyway since the banks and the governments would be in chaos? Human nature is such that when you work people up into a panic, they are not going to make their best decisions. They are far more likely to act upon the fearful images you project than any cautionary statements you offer as an afterthought. Let’s do a review of what was predicted to happen through 1999 and into 2000. Our readers can make up their own minds what to think about it. (The following chronology was taken from the web site <www. y2ktimebomb.com/Computech/ Issues/hyatt9840>. (In all cases the bold type added for emphasis.)
Dates With Destiny:
- January 1, 1999, On this date, 80 percent of infrastructure providers and businesses that were to have begun testing “will have missed the deadline.” And, the circumstance of the European Common Currency system going online “will create its own level of chaos and continued drain on Information Technology resources that could be used on the Year 2000 computer problem.”
So what happened on January 1, 1999? Nothing happened!
- April 1, 1999, “On this date, Canada, Japan, and the state of New York begin their ﬁscal year … Planning systems, especially budgets that have not been repaired will fail as they attempt to process Y2K dates. I expect the stock market to react and begin (or continue) its downward spiral. Public conﬁdence will continue to wane and the number of Y2K optimists will continue to dwindle.”
What happened on April 1, 1999? Nothing happened, or at least nothing BAD happened, which made people far more optimistic than they had been about our ability to weather Y2K unscathed.
- July 1, 1999, “On this date, forty-four U.S. states begin their ﬁscal years. The problems that began in New York will now spread exponentially across the country and around the world … the failures WILL be real and widespread. We will begin seeing the public begin to panic …”
Result? Zip, zero, nada happened. No panic in the public sector at all. Perhaps some of the outspoken jeremiads began to panic, seeing their credibility threatened, but we don’t know that for sure.
- August 22, 1999, “Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology will fail in receivers that are not upgraded or replaced.” This failure “will produce inaccurate data that could prove to be dangerous and even life threatening. While not speciﬁcally a Y2K related problem, this computer glitch will add to the chaos and confusion.”
Result: According to a radio news report on August 23, 1999, one motorist in Japan was led into a trafﬁc jam. While this likely was confusing for the poor guy, it doesn’t seem that his life was actually in any real danger.
- September 9, 1999, “On this date, many computers will encounter the infamous “99” problem. For decades programmers designated the end of a ﬁle or the termination of a program by entering a series of four nines in a row (i.e., “9999”) in a date ﬁeld … This code, like the Millennium Bug, is embedded in millions of computer programs throughout the world. Unless it is tracked down and removed, these programs will abruptly terminate – often with unexpected results.”
What happened on September 9, 1999? Don Veinot celebrated his 47th birthday, but not much else of note happened.
- October 1, 1999, “On this date, the federal government will begin its ﬁscal year … thirteen out of twenty-four key federal government agencies will not make the deadline. Computer systems operated by the Defense, Transportation, Treasury, and Medicare Departments, among others, will begin malfunctioning. All the smoke and mirrors will be gone. The government – and the administration – will be forced to admit the truth. There will be no place to hide. The naked truth will be evident to all.”
Result: Even when nothing happened again, at this late date, Michael Hyatt refused to admit what had become obvious to most people—the Y2K bomb was a dud.
- January 1, 2000, “On this date, all non-compliant computer systems will fail or generate corrupt data, propagating it across systems and bringing down many computers that are compliant. The world will watch with anticipation as the systems fail, one time zone at a time.”
You all know what happened—we don’t have to tell you. But for any who missed it or have forgotten—nothing happened, except the world had a grand party.
- January 4, 2000, “On this date, the ﬁrst business day of the New Year begins. Many businesses, utility companies, and government agencies will not open – many will not be able to open. Many that do open will be swamped with customer complaints. Chaos and pandemonium will reign.”
Result: Many who spent lots of money preparing for one to three years of chaos began to realize that Michael Hyatt—the name you could trust—should not have been trusted. Others began sheepishly coming down out of the mountains and picking up their lives where they left off. Still others refused to come to grips with reality and looked grimly forward to February 29, when all could yet be lost.
- February 29, 2000, “On this date, leap day occurs. Most people assume that every fourth year is a leap year. However, every fourth turn-of-the-century is a leap year, too … Unfortunately, many programmers were unaware of this rule, and their programs will stumble over this date, increasing the chaos.”
Result? Around this time Michael Hyatt changed his web site name from Y2K Prep to Self-Reliant Living.
Waiting For The Shoe To Drop
After the uneventful rollover (on January 12, 2000, to be exact), we checked out Hyatt’s web page to see if he had yet admitted his error. What we found were ludicrous claims of cover-up and conspiracy, along with a few goofy stories that, in our opinion, only further degraded Hyatt’s credibility. A headline read, “Mass. Courts Still Without Computers.”6The Boston Globe linked from Michael Hyatt’s website As we read the article, it soon became apparent we were being offered the old “bait-and-switch” routine. While it was a true, actual, and indisputable fact that the Middlesex Probate and Family Court didn’t have a working computer as of 1/12/00, it turned out that they had NEVER had one.
Another story on Hyatt’s web site that day was “Y2K Bug deals ‘Fatal Blow’ to Toronto Transit Hotline.”7Michael Hyatt’s link to http://greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch- msg.tcl?msg_id=002Hn5 A “Fatal Blow” sounds like serious trouble to us, so we contacted the Toronto Mass Transit to see what sort of chaos they were experiencing. How were they handling all of the stranded commuters? How was the city dealing with the shut down? How long before they can get it repaired? We spoke with Martin Collicott who was genuinely perplexed by our call. To his knowledge everything was operating ﬁne, but he said he would check into it and get back to us. Was it possible he hadn’t noticed a serious problem with the mass transit system for which he worked? We know bureaucracies can be a little out of touch, but this seemed a bit odd. He e-mailed us later that day with the information he had learned. It turned out that the Toronto Transit Hotline is an informational phone line with old equipment which had been deemed too expensive to overhaul. They made other provisions for commuters to get the information they needed, and it had not caused a problem of any consequence.
Then there was a contribution on Hyatt’s site from a Mr. Warren Bone. He wondered if the lights really stayed on around the world, or was the appearance of global normalcy merely a “cover-up.” “Why did it go smoothly?” Bone asked darkly. He continued:
“Or did it? Where were all the embedded chip problems? The lights stayed on worldwide? No major problems? Not anywhere? No problems with government systems? How’d they do that? Or did they?” … “It appears to most people that 2000 came and nothing happened at all.” … Why does it appear that way to most people? “What we (the general public) know about any Y2K related problems is only what was reported to us, unless of course, it affected us directly.”8Warren Bone, www.michaelhyatt.com/editorials/hoax.htm p.7
He then points out how obvious it would have been to us that there was a problem if the lights had gone out. Well, DUH! We certainly can agree with Bone on this point. Even we would have been forced to admit there was a problem if our lights had gone out! And blessedly, Bone did notice that our lights here in the U.S. had stayed on. So far, then, we’re on the same page. Then he asked the question that put us at odds with his reasoning.
“Now what about the rest of the world? Did we not see the New Year’s Eve celebrations from many countries on live TV? And did the lights there not stay on? Yes, the lights at all those speciﬁc ‘press sites’ did stay on during the time the press was present.”9Warren Bone, www.michaelhyatt.com/editorials/hoax.htm p7-8 “Is there any doubt whatsoever that all the electricity, water, sewer treatment, communications, and other critical infrastructures stayed intact all over the world? That these utilities just rolled right into 2000 with no problem?”
… “Yes, there is doubt.”10Warren Bone, www.michaelhyatt.com/editorials/hoax.htm p8
Yep, we’re in the Twilight Zone! Since there is no evidence that the world is actually in deep doo-doo, it must be that there is a giant, worldwide conspiracy to conceal the evidence, so we’ll keep right on believing everything is hunky-dory—just so we won’t panic. Oooooooookay! Let’s just step away slowly …
Michael Hyatt wasn’t alone in this debacle. He had plenty of company, and he got his “facts” from many supposedly reliable “experts.” Other Y2K proﬁteers—such as Hal Lindsay, Grant Jefferys, and Jack Van Impe—seem to have returned quietly to their normal end-time themes. Nevertheless, there has been fallout from the debacle. Steve Hewitt points out:
“As a result of Y2K, there is now much division and pain within the Christian community. And as a result of Y2K some have left the church, and many others are hurt and disillusioned.”11Steve Hewitt, “Final Y2K Report – It’s Time for Accountability, Repentance and Forgiveness!” Christian Computing Magazine, www.gospel.net/ccmag/articles/0200/covr0200.html
Hewitt believes we need to hold the Y2K proﬁteers accountable for the panic they fostered. Recently, Hewitt initiated reconciliation with Michael Hyatt, and to his credit, Hyatt has responded. We will have to wait and see whether or not there is a genuine change of heart there. Dr. James Dobson has issued an apology on his radio show for his part in fanning the ﬂames of fear. We feel that is evidence of personal integrity. It is not an easy thing to admit error.
A Need For Critical Thinking
We see the Y2K debacle as only one example (and, perhaps, not the best one) of a problem that plagues the church in our day. Pseudo-Christian groups outside the church and false teachings within rise due to a lack of discernment and sound biblical teaching.
Bill Gothard hasn’t met a Scripture he can’t twist and misuse, bringing his two-and-a-half-million followers into fear, bondage, and legalism. Word-Faith teachers proﬁt in hundreds-of-millions of dollars each year. “Holy laughter” has become a standard spiritual “manifestation” in many churches, while new absurdities appear on a regular basis. “Glory dust” (gold dust) supposedly is now falling on the congregations; and allegedly, ordinary tooth ﬁllings miraculously are being changed to gold and silver. Is God really into supernatural dentistry these days? Is He the one dropping gold-tone glitter on the folks in the pews? We think, perhaps, there is a better explanation.12Dr. Gregory Camp, who has been researching this phenomena, in an interview with Joy Veinot for an upcoming CRI Journal article said, “This is a con, a sham and it cheapens the faith.” In his investigation of the “Gold Dust” phenomenon, Dr. Camp noticed the alleged “gold dust” refracted light as green. Knowing that real gold would not do that, he had some of the dust analyzed. “It tested as plastic,” said Camp. “Glitter.” But the people in these churches see the glitter as “Glory Dust” and do not want to hear a better explanation. They are just blindly following their leaders. That’s not a good idea, friends.
Then there is the church’s present love affair with psychology. One teacher at the “1998 Women of Faith Conference” (sponsored by New Life Clinics) taught the large group of women gathered there from many different denominations that “Jesus commanded us to love ourselves.” He did? We must’ve missed that!
All of us have been wrong in our thinking at some point in our lives, and most of us have been deceived one way or another. That’s part of being human—a despised part—but an inescapable part nonetheless. Jesus called us sheep, and sheep we are. And sheep are always only one misstep away from sheepish! We’ve been there—so have you. But, recognizing our unfortunate likeness to sheep, we can learn to examine our human shepherds and their teaching, realizing they are fallible human beings and could be deceived themselves.
So, those who are ﬁnding themselves not wanting to trust “Christian leaders” (as a result of the Y2K folly), again, are not necessarily in a bad place. We were never meant to follow leaders blindly anyway. That’s what should separate the church from the cults. We are to critically examine what we are being fed.
Yes, leaders are given to the church to equip the saints for service—but we are not to be infants in high chairs playing airplane and hangar. We are to become “… mature … no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine … by craftiness in deceitful scheming.” We are to “… grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:13-14).
We thank God for the great majority of pastors and Christian leaders who did not succumb to Y2K hysteria but continued doing the work of the Lord they have been called to do.
If those who were taken in by the Y2K scare—leaders and layman alike—were to commit themselves to stressing sound biblical teaching and encouraging critical thinking in the church, this would go a long way toward guarding the ﬂock from future problems like the Y2K debacle.
© 2015, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. All rights reserved. Excerpts and links may be used if full and clear credit is given with specific direction to the original content.
|↑2||Daily Herald, January 4, 2000: section 4, p.1-2|
|↑3||www.gospelcom.net/ccmag/y2k/michaeltosteve.html, Michael Hyatt’s letter to Steve Hewitt, pps. 2-3|
|↑4||Michael Hyatt ad from the World Magazine, dated June 19, 1999 (Bold italics added for emphasis.|
|↑5||www.gospelcom.net/ccmag/y2k/michaeltosteve.html, Michael Hyatt’s letter to Steve Hewitt, p.3|
|↑6||The Boston Globe linked from Michael Hyatt’s website|
|↑7||Michael Hyatt’s link to http://greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch- msg.tcl?msg_id=002Hn5|
|↑8||Warren Bone, www.michaelhyatt.com/editorials/hoax.htm p.7|
|↑9||Warren Bone, www.michaelhyatt.com/editorials/hoax.htm p7-8|
|↑10||Warren Bone, www.michaelhyatt.com/editorials/hoax.htm p8|
|↑11||Steve Hewitt, “Final Y2K Report – It’s Time for Accountability, Repentance and Forgiveness!” Christian Computing Magazine, www.gospel.net/ccmag/articles/0200/covr0200.html|
|↑12||Dr. Gregory Camp, who has been researching this phenomena, in an interview with Joy Veinot for an upcoming CRI Journal article said, “This is a con, a sham and it cheapens the faith.” In his investigation of the “Gold Dust” phenomenon, Dr. Camp noticed the alleged “gold dust” refracted light as green. Knowing that real gold would not do that, he had some of the dust analyzed. “It tested as plastic,” said Camp. “Glitter.”|
As a Canadian Christian, I’m always amazed by the way American Christians get so hysterical about these alleged crises. I didn’t know anyone who panicked over Y2K. Our church had one sermon on the subject; it was reasonable, mainly just advising that it’s a good idea to be prepared for emergencies. Joel and Arno Froese in their book When Y2K Dies were also among those warning against the hysteria.
I can imagine a young person now or in the future hearing about Y2K for the first time and laughing at the thought that the simpletons of the late 1990s were so backward and stupid as to believe the world might end because of this. I don’t have sympathy for those who got taken in by the hysteria–they should read and heed their Bibles, and beware of those who seem to be profiting from the fearmongering (II Peter 2:3). Did any of the people who bought survival packages determine what Michael Hyatt had in mind for January 1, 2000 and beyond?
Shortly after Y2K, I went to a nearby Christian bookstore that had a couple of Y2K videos–one from Grant Jeffrey, the other with a multitude of “experts” such as Don McAlvany (by the way, why is it that those such as McAlvany, who supposedly have inside knowledge and experience, never seem to offer predictions that are more accurate than those from anyone else?). The store was about to ship the videos back where they got them, but I persuaded them to let me buy them for have price, and I said that a year from now these “experts” would deny ever making their predictions.
James Dobson was the one (along with WND) mainly responsible for promoting Michael Hyatt, but about Sept.-Oct. 1999, Dr. Dobson began to backtrack and admit that it might not be as bad as predicted.
Southwest Radio Church was another ministry that promoted Y2K hysteria (completely obliterated from their website now, of course), but that’s not unusual for them–they were also big into the Jupiter Effect.
I’ll have to give another look this year to the video I have from Jack Van Impe with the apocalyptic warnings about 1996 (“But we’re not date-setting”).