There are two things in this world that young people are most attracted to. Sex and technology. Both are good but dangerous if handled unwisely. Aaron Swartz was fascinated by the latter. Unfortunately his fascinations didn’t have limits.
Now Please take note that I don’t intend to judge Aaron in writing this article.I rather want to emphasize the fact that there are many brilliant minded people like Swartz who need to be taught to use their skills wisely, which is something only the church is capable of doing. A good point to start with would be to identify and create an awareness of the 3 major mistakes Swartz made.
1. Using technology responsibly
(1 Corinthians 13:11)
I am responsible for what I do with technology and how I use it. The number one reason I started my own Christian Computer club this year was to teach young Christians the biblical principles and ethics of using technology and encourage them to use it responsibly and in a way that brings glory to God.
Technology is a good thing. It can also be dangerous if used carelessly. Harvard academic, activist and personal friend of Swartz, Lawrence Lessig said this about Aaron’s death. ‘Aaron brought Aaron here, through his alleged actions.’
2. End never justifies the means
As leaders we must teach young Christians that ‘the end never justifies the means’ especially with technology. Unlike black hat hackers do Aaron didn’t intend to make a profit from the protected scholarly articles he downloaded from JSTOR through means of unauthorized access to MIT network. He just wanted to make those articles available to any one free of charge.
His motives were pure but the methods were not. Lessig wrote later, ‘The causes that Aaron fought for are my causes too, but as much as I respect those who disagree with me about this, these means are not mine.”
3. Talent cannot substitute character
It seems as if not a month goes by without hearing of some highly talented and “successful” individual whose character, or lack of it, has brought them low, tainting their reputation and legacy.
We have many young men and women in church. Each one with a different kind of gift. All of them need our help to become people driven by character other than talent. Character should always control talent. Not vice versa.
Aaron was not the first person of his kind to commit suicide. Jonathan James a teenage hacker committed suicide on 18th May 2008 after he was convicted of hacking into corporate networks. Aaron will not be the last victim unless the church acts soon.
Years ago fornication was the biggest worry the church had to deal with. Abuse of technology is a new social issue and the church is not ready. Sadly certain Christian communities are not only ill-prepared but totally ignorant. I was shocked when I heard that members of the Westboro Baptist church wanted to picket Aaron’s funeral.
It’s high time that we take abuse of technology into account when planning our sermons and designing teaching curricula and we will be able to minimize tragedies like Aaron and James.