The Millennium Bug
By Major Chick Yuill –
Have you heard of the “Millennium bug”? Sometimes it’s referred to as the “Year 2000 Problem” or as “Y2K.” Whatever terminology is used, the reality is that the world of computers faces a shutdown as we enter the new millennium. A recent Newsweek described the problem in an article entitled, “The Day The World Crashes.”
“It represents the ultimate indignity: the world laid low by two lousy digits. The trouble is rooted in a seemingly trivial space-saving programming trick–dropping the first two numbers of the date, abbreviating, say, the year 1951 to ’51.’ This digital relic from the days when every byte was precious was supposed to have been long gone by now, but the practice became standard.”
The fact is that virtually all main frame computers are equipped with software that will refuse to recognize that the year 2000 follows the close of 1999. The possibilities are frightening: Air traffic control technology could be rendered useless; vital hospital equipment could shut down; the entire financial infrastructure of the nation could collapse; weapons systems could break down, leaving the nation defenseless.
One thing is certain–it is going to take hard work to rescue the situation. The irony is, things should never have come to this. The Newsweek article is scathing:
“While any idiot familiar with the situation could figure out that the world’s computers were on a collision course with the millennium, no one wanted to be the one to bring it up to management. ”
What troubles me is that so many intelligent human beings could have missed what should have been glaringly obvious. And are there any other potential problems, I wonder that we’re failing to notice as we approach the new millennium? My great concern, of course is the Christian Church and particularly that part of it that is known as The Salvation Army. Let me be so bold as to suggest some of the challenges that we ignore at our peril in the closing years of the 20th century.
The fact remains that the great majority of Americans view The Salvation Army as no more than a social service organization. When are we going to major on mission, to emphasize evangelism and to produce the kind of publicity that makes it clear to this nation that our first business is winning lost men and women to Jesus Christ, and that every other activity is secondary to this?
Our headquarters machinery draws in too many of our most gifted officers after only the briefest experience in our corps. Most of them never return. We are all the poorer for that. What we need are officers who will say, “I’m willing to pay the price in career and give my life to preach the gospel, to pastor the flock, and to build up Salvation Army corps which become known throughout the nation for the quality of their worship and the quantity of their members”
America gave The Salvation Army Samuel Logan Brengle. His particular theological formulation of the doctrine of sanctification may not be the best way to sound the call to holiness today, but his life remains a great example of practical holy living. In this materialistic, relativistic age, where are the men and women who will heed the call of the gospel to a radically alternative lifestyle in which we hold firmly to principles and sit lightly to possessions? Where are the corps that will demonstrate the miracle of Christian community before a watching and fragmented world?
In order to go forward it is often necessary to go back. In the case of the Army, it is time to go back to our roots, back to our founding vision As we march into the year 2000, who will plead that the Holy Spirit will endue us with Booth’s passion for the lost, his pragmatism that will subject every practice and program to the scrutiny of constructive criticism, and his impatience with any denominatinal sub-culture that holds tradition above mission?
Our response to those questions may well decide whether or not we remain useful to God for another 100 years or whether we become just a footnote in the history books of the 21st century. The final paragraphs of the Newsweek article are intended as a call to action for the computer industry. Perhaps they are not irrelevant to The Salvation Army as the shadow of the new millennium looms over us.
It’s tough out there on the front lines of Y2K. In less than 2000 days, it might be tough everywhere. “There are two kinds of people,” says Nigel Martin-Jones of Data Dimenisons. “Those who aren’t working on it and aren’t worried, and those who are working on it and are terrified.”
Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick!