The End Of The World As We Know It?

The millennium bug could bite VCRs, ICBMs and more. Doomsayers say it's all in God's endgame

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One prominent Reconstructionist is Gary North, Rushdoony's son-in-law and head of his own Institute for Christian Economics. "Scary Gary's" website is by far one of the most popular Y2K panic centers. "In all of man's history," he has warned, "we have never been able to predict with such accuracy a worldwide disaster of this magnitude. The millennium clock keeps ticking. There is nothing we can do." But he has a few recommendations anyhow: buy gold and grain; quit your job; and find a remote cabin safe from the rioting hordes. He also recommends a two-year subscription (price: $225) to his newsletter, Remnant Review, an offer that appears to reflect a faith that, if nothing else, the mail will keep operating through 2000. As a subscriber incentive he promises "my report on 15 stocks which stand to benefit from this crisis."

North, who declines to be interviewed, not only hopes that America will fall; he believes it's part of his duty to bring it down, to be replaced by a Bible-based Reconstructionist state that will impose the death penalty on blasphemers, heretics, adulterers, gay men and women who have had abortions or sex before marriage. So it's a fine line for him between warning against a calamity and encouraging panic.

There are less thunderous approaches to the problem too. Karen Anderson of Dallas is a onetime family therapist and marketing consultant (for North, among others). Now she's a self-proclaimed homemaker's guide to apocalypse preparedness. She has a new book, Y2K for Women: How to Protect Your Home and Family in the Coming Crisis; a six-part audiotape series; and, of course, a website where she offers tips on things like how to find reusable menstrual cups. Her stated goal is to appear on Oprah.

Anderson thinks North's scare tactics are counterproductive for most women. "It's so intense," she says. "Women go, 'I can't deal with this!'" And so Anderson is part of a yuppie-ish Y2K-readiness group that meets once a month to discuss risks and learn self-reliance skills. The four couples who take part are learning how to roll their own oats for cereal, shop for paraffin lamps--those don't give off smoke--and preserve fruit. French coffee presses, they have discovered, are perfect for sprouting seeds. If Martha Stewart ran a survivalist sect, it might be something like this.

Then there's Harrison, Ark., a quiet Ozarks farm town (pop. 11,611) that is becoming a mecca for anyone who fears the worst from the computer bug. Up to 100 local citizens there attend twice-monthly meetings of a group called Y2K Watch. And in August, a Y2K town meeting brought at least 700 people to an auditorium at North Arkansas College. "My purpose was not to scare anyone but to begin talking about economic self-sufficiency," says former mayor Dan Harness, who organized the gathering, which had representatives from a local utility, a bank, hospital and phone company.

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