Facts and Perspectives
Here are samples of various types of writing I've done. Check back often because I will be adding to this page regularly.
Technical Writing Sample:
Sociology, Practical Applications in the Field of Journalism
By: Lauren Feenstra
As Peter L. Berger stated in his book, An Invitation to Sociology, "Sociology is not a practice, but an attempt to understand.", so too is the job of a great writer and journalist. One might be bold enough, and correct to say, journalism is not a practice, but an attempt to understand. Sociology and Journalism not only mirror one another in their professional goals, they complement each other's efforts. Both disciplines strive to inform and explain the actions of humans within the confines of social constructs like communities and societies as well as dyads and triads. There is only one defining and significant difference between the two. Journalism, while reporting on such topics as poverty, inequality, and gender stratification, does so with bias and is full of opinions alongside of the facts. Conversely, sociology wishes to discuss and dissect those very same topics but with one distinct divergence, it strictly enforces the use and practice of objective and scientific observation, otherwise known as the Scientific Method.
The Sociological Imagination or viewing oneself in a larger historical setting, asking what is the structure of this particular society, where does it stand in human history, and what kinds of men and women thrive in this society and period of time, are tirelessly being asked and answered in journalism and writing circles. In the last ten years alone, numerous books have been published and articles written about those very questions on such places as Iraq, Afghanistan, and even America. Countries are compared to other countries, countries are compared to themselves during different times in history, we even compare generations of people to other generations on things such as life expectancy, political views, and current health issues. Whether we like it or not, we are definitely a society immersed in a Sociological Imagination dream and journalist and authors are in REM.
The four modes of inequality, or the social process whereby a powerful group of humans reaps benefits for itself at the expense of the less powerful group, are topics peppered throughout American journalism and a topic of many public interest books. Freedom of the press, a basic right in the constitution of America allows future journalist such as myself to constantly hold in view of the American people the ugly truth of such struggles over power, wealth, and status in the areas of race, gender, class and less commonly nation. Conversely, it also aids in helping counter those social ills by giving a voice to people like Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., who dedicate his life to the advancement of civil rights. If there were one topic that could be continually reported and written about, the Four Modes of Inequality would defiantly fit the bill.
The job of a sociologist and the job of a journalist are similar. They are interwoven, like a Venn Diagram, overlapping but each with a unique set of differences. Out of all the electives that have to be taken during the career of a journalism major, sociology is one of the most practical and helpful. Having an unbiased backbone of understanding on the information that will be most commonly reported on and the least correctly understood is an invaluable resource to any hopeful journalist. Maybe someday it will make the move from an elective to a requirement, but until then we must keep spreading the word about the practical applications of sociology in regards to journalism.
What Would Jesus Do?
By: Lauren Feenstra
"She is such a hypocrite." "He is so narrow-minded." "They are so judgmental." These phrases get tossed around frequently in conversation, in and out of church. Most people believe, to varying degrees, that Christians are just narrow-minded, judgmental, hypocrites. The startling revelation, many people consider and classify themselves under the umbrella of Christianity. While Christianity spread over the centuries, and its numbers increased, many advances in society gave occasion to collide with traditional Christian beliefs. Extremists on both sides of the pendulum, encourage conflict within Christianity, alongside of the traditional opposition of it.
Early in the first century, society and its church argued issues like Gnosticism, abortion, and philosophy. (Pavao) The list of acceptable and non-acceptable behaviors, thoughts, and speech fill countless scrolls of papyrus paper, and there remain at least two sides to every issue.
Judaism gave birth to Christianity. (Cohen) The main difference between the two religions lay in the debate of whether Jesus was the long prophesied Messiah. Both religions teach similar morals and values. In the Old Testament of the Bible, God gave the Law or Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai. (Exodus, Matthew 22:34-40) These Commandments became the heart and core of the Judeo-Christian background and still spur on the separate religions today. They also fuel the flames of controversy in society.
"Who are you to judge?" "Judge not, lest you be judged." Familiar phrases to most people, but why do they exist? Are they just another retort used for centuries to fend off the harsh and unduly criticisms of Christians? Is all the hype about judgmental Christians accurate? Are they mean, cynical people waiting to point out others sins, or are they simply misunderstood? The answers to these questions go back to the first century when a man named Jesus gathered a small group of followers and began to change the world.
People categorize or stereotype other humans for lots of reasons, sometimes to relate to them, other times to dismiss them as ignorant and irrelevant. When society labels Christians as judgmental, society labels Christianity as judgmental. Similarly, when a lazy person collects unemployment, unemployed people are labeled as lazy. The stereotype, "judgmental, narrow-minded, hypocritical Christians" often translates, "judgmental, narrow-minded, hypocritical Christianity."
However, the values and morals of Christianity do not reflect narrow-mindedness. In fact, Christianity requires open-mindedness to accept most, if not all the writings contained in the Bible. Most humans find accepting unseen things as fact very difficult, especially if accepting and believing in unseen things requires them to put their life at stake. When narrow-mindedness rears its ugly head in Christianity, it produces one thing, hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy is the antithesis of Christianity. Jesus, quoted many times in the Bible, denounced the religious leaders of his day called Pharisees. He chastised them for exuding their personal judgments on people. For example, he said,"Woe to you...Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven ... neither enter yourselves..." (Matt. 23:13-15) Jesus continues, " For you tithe... and have neglected the law; justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Those you ought to have done without neglecting others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!" (Matt. 23:23) Jesus always called the Pharisee's out on their hypocritical behavior. He made it very clear that the behavior of the Pharisees did not represent Christianity. He wanted the religious leaders and lay people alike to understand that without any confusion. If hypocritical behavior is tolerated inside the sphere of Christianity, it will give birth to judgmental thoughts, from Christian toward other Christians and most importantly from Christians toward the world.
Judgmental attitudes hinder the loving message Jesus gave his followers for an example while he was on earth. The Bible shows Jesus forgiving people and teaching them life lessons in a non-judgmental way time and time again. (Luke) He forgave the woman caught in adultery that the Pharisees tried to stone. But he did more than just forgive; he wanted to help her break free from her self-destructive lifestyle. He took time and talked with her. He showed the woman her value by forgiveness not condemnation. (John 8) Jesus' love was limitless and his forgiveness showed no limitations.
He also forgave his disciple Peter for his betrayal of denial. Peter allowed his fear to control him. He lacked faith in Jesus' ability to protect him. Jesus did not respond with anger, rage, or disappointment. He knew Peter would deny him, yet, he not only forgave him, and Jesus made Peter instrumental in starting the early Church. (Mark 14, John 21) Jesus showed Peter that no matter how cracked his life was, Jesus would still use him as a tool for good.
Most importantly, Jesus forgave the crowd of people who called for his death. On his Via Dolorosa, enduring horrific pain, mocking taunts rose from an ungrateful crowd that he literally died to save. (John 19) Anyone could understand if Jesus felt a little disgruntled. If he had muttered a couple of obscenities under his breath, everyone would make some concessions for him. We make excuses for ourselves everyday when we get cut off on the way to work or get served cold fries at McDonalds. Jesus did not judge these people, he loved them. He prayed for them. He forgave them. (Luke 23) That is the heart of Christianity. Do Christians live out that love?
Jesus left very direct instructions for his followers on how to treat others in the book of John, "This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:12) He commanded it. Not an optional thing to do if one feels like it, or it works out, and the stars align. Another passage puts it this way, in the book of Galatians, chapter five, verse fourteen, "For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself." (Gal. 5:14) If Jesus did not promote a judgmental, narrow-minded, hypocritical lifestyle, then why does so much controversy exist between Christians and the world? What is missing in this picture?
The answer is simple and complicated. Jesus was perfect. He never made a single bad decision. He never hurt someone because he lost his temper or let his pride get the best of him. He always put himself second, without exception. Humans, on the other hand are imperfect. We do hurt others with our words and attitudes. Daily we allow our pride to supersede our humility. Tragically, we rarely celebrate the number two spot, and we always look for a way to get ahead, no matter the cost. We literally find ourselves incapable of loving others the way that Jesus loved. Does Jesus believe in right and wrong? Did he establish a moral code, a standard for which to strive? Of course. Does he hold people accountable to it? Yes. Is it of utmost importance to him? Most certainly. Did he leave Christians in charge as the world's moral parole officer, making sure everyone stays in line? Absolutely not. Imperfect people cannot judge other imperfect people's motives. Why? They are just as guilty, if not more so, than the person they judge. It would be like a murderous judge, sentencing a murderer to death, while the evil judge continues to go free.
So where does that leave Christians? Do they sit back and allow the stereotype to become a self fulfilling prophecy? Or should they try harder to emulate the example given to them? Are not Christians followers of Jesus Christ? They should adapt their viewpoint to his, not the other way around. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California and author of The Purpose Driven Life quoted recently, said, "[I] hope the church will be known more by what it is for, than what it is against. The hands and feet of the body of [Jesus] Christ have been amputated, and we've been reduced to a big mouth. We talk more than we do." (Banks) That is why the world cries out "Christians are judgmental, narrow-minded, hypocrites." Maybe instead of pointing the finger at others, they should focus on their personal and corporate shortcomings. Instead of trying to change others, maybe they should pray for the grace to change themselves, with the help of their loving leader. Sadly, some Christians do not live out the lifestyle their faith demands. Some Christians seem to keep forgetting the example that Jesus gave them and instead, replace it with their own set of standards.
That said, it is unfair to stereotype all Christians as judgmental, narrow-minded, hypocrites. As with any stereotype, they are born out of the unfortunate few who take it upon themselves to speak for the whole group. Andy Stanly, senior pastor of North Point Ministries sums it up best when he said, "If able to rewrite the script for the reputation of Christianity, we would put emphasis on developing relationships with non-believers, serving them, loving them, and making them feel accepted. Only then would we earn the right to share the gospel." (Banks) If all Christians adopted Andy's viewpoint, the world would view Christians and Christianity through a different set of lenses. Maybe Christians would impact society the same way Jesus did.
While there still remains a small but very prominent group of elitist Christians, more and more churches continue to make great strides in returning to their roots and following in Jesus' footsteps. Slowly but surely, Christians embrace that they are called to work as the hands and feet of Jesus. They should use their hands to stretch out in love and not slam down the gavel of judgment.
Banks, Adelle M. "Study: Youth See Christians as Judgmental, Anti-gay - USATODAY.com." USATODAY.com. USA Today Newspaper, 10 Oct. 2007. Web. 24 Mar. 2011. <http://www.usatoday.com
Cohen, Shaye I.D. "FRONTLINE: from Jesus to Christ: Why Did Christianity Succeed?: Legitimization under Constantine, Path to Victory." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. PBS, Apr. 1998. Web. 31 Mar. 2011. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/
Pavao, Paul F. "Christian Quotes through the Ages." Christian History for Everyman. 2009. Web. 04 Apr. 2011. http://www.christian-history.org.
A Passion Few Pursue, and A Tool to Change A Life.
By: Lauren Feenstra
My soul lay bare. My heart spilled wide open and exposed for all to see and drink in. Although I now see it as a creative outlet, throughout High School I hated English class. I dreaded that hour of the day, just like I dreaded Math or Science. It was exact, and I was anything but. I hated rules and anything that would constrain my creativity.
My destiny was interior design, to decorate the homes of famous people in New York. I wanted "Lauren Feenstra" to become a household name, like a Gucci bag on Fifth Avenue in New York City. I wanted to use my gift, even though no schools in West Michigan provided a competitive level of education, and The Carpet Center provided the only on-the -job training. I was born for interior design.
But I did not accomplish any of this. Instead, I got married, had kids, and became the everyday, ordinary housewife. I stumbled into complacency. Creativity turned into cleaning, and dreams turned into dirty diapers to change. Instead of deadlines, conference calls, and appointments with new clients, I had play dates, Tupperware parties, and Mom Groups to attend. I lost myself and my dreams.
Two years ago we moved to the Dallas area. Ecstatic to live in a big city, I quickly saw all the possibilities that lay in front of me and went to work on finding myself once more, but not like I assumed I would. I applied to the Art Institute of Dallas and received an acceptance letter from them a few weeks later. On my way to fulfilling my dream, my creative juices started going, and the adrenaline flowing. I started designing rooms in houses, doctor's offices, and restaurants. The designs were good, conceptually inviting, and memorable.
Two problems presented themselves and they needed my immediate attention. The first and the lesser of the two problems, the price of tuition at The Art Institute of Dallas. The private college charged $450.00 per credit hour, which rounded out at around $80,000 for four years. I could not justify the debt.
The second and more important problem, in a word, writing. During the application process, I wrote an essay, "Why I should attend the Art Institute". Impassioned at the time for design, I sat down and poured everything in me into this paper and it turned out quite good. In fact, I think too good because I could not stop thinking about it. Suddenly, something I hated became something I loved. Obsessed and never able to get enough, I started writing all the time. Like a druggie on heroin, I was addicted. I started carrying a notebook with me everywhere. When I found myself in a place that inspired me, I captured the essence of it on paper. The sights, sounds, smells, and feelings it invoked in me permanently written on paper. Then I would close my eyes and imagine what story this place had to tell and I wrote that down too. I felt like all the creativity I had poured into design, now redirected and flowed freely into my writing. I felt released. Writing changed my life.
I realized I must pursue writing and I dropped out of the Art Institute. I applied to Collin County Community College and started my journey. I do not know where writing will take me nor the destination it has in store, but I am confident, by God's grace, in my ability to get there.