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Free Your Mind

By Greg Cahill

LAST WEEK, some of our newspaper racks in Guerneville and Petaluma were vandalized, the contents dumped in the trash, apparently by readers offended by the "Christianity at the Crossroads" cover story. That thought-provoking article, by longtime contributor David Templeton (who once studied for a ministerial career), related the latest work of the Santa Rosa-based Jesus Seminar, a group of scholars examining how mainstream Christianity might change over the course of the next thousand years.

(If you missed it, or if your neighborhood rack was emptied, the article can be found in our online archive.)

This isn't the first time our racks have been vandalized because of our coverage. And it's not the first time we've upset people--from both ends of the spectrum--by tackling challenging topics. That often provokes a loud and emotionally charged response. For example, last month, we received scads of phone calls, letters, and e-mails from angry Republicans upset over Stephen Kessler's satirical spin on George W. Bush's inaugural speech. And we still get correspondence from North Bay progressives who disdained our opposition to Ralph Nader's vanity campaign. And then there are those folks who just think that it is the duty of an alternative newsweekly to preach to the choir.

Not enough for some folks, too much for others.

The incident last week reminded me of a bit of wisdom that comedian Howard Hessemen passed along a few years back when I interviewed him in connection with a benefit concert for the Mill Valley-based Bread & Roses. Hessemen, best known as the burned-out radio deejay Dr. Johnny Fever on WKRP in Cincinnati, was preparing to reunite with other former members of the '60s radical political improv comedy troupe the Committee, which also included such well-known North Bay figures as actor Peter Coyote and folksinger Mimi Farina (who had since formed Bread & Roses to bring musicians into prisons, hospitals, and other institutions).

When asked to describe his motivation for shaking things up, Hessemen simply stated his motto: Challenge your credulity. In other words, never get comfortable with your own beliefs. Stay open to new ideas. Embrace change.

The Bohemian will continue to challenge readers with its news, opinion, ideas, and arts coverage. And, hopefully, readers will hold us to that task and continue to challenge themselves as well.

'Bohemian' editor Greg Cahill used to make ice cream runs for the nuns at a neighboring convent.

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From the February 22-28, 2001 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.

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