God to Helen: 'Do I know you?'

  • SHE'S FOUND ABSOLUTION: Idaho Republican Rep. Helen Chenoweth


The fall of 1998 will undoubtedly go down in history as a record year for confessions of infidelity - followed by professions of contrition - from politicians. The latest comes from Idaho Rep. Helen Chenoweth, the ultra-conservative Republican, who recently admitted to a six-year affair with a married, former business partner.

The Idaho Statesman decided to pursue the story after Chenoweth began running ads against her upcoming opponent in which she made President Clinton's personal conduct an issue. Not known for her meekness, Helen's response was remarkable:

"I've asked for God's forgiveness, and I've received it," she said.

Well, Helen, I just spoke with God, and he has no recollection of ever speaking with you on this or any other matter. He knew, of course, about your affair with business partner Vern Ravenscroft, and he's been waiting for years for you, Congressman Dan Burton, President Clinton and a few others to come clean. He notes with great displeasure that you were the last of these to confess.

He's not quite ready to forgive you. He's more than a little put off with your hypocrisy: always running as the family-values candidate, so quick to criticize others. He also doesn't like your cozying up to militia groups and the disrespect you show people of color. And he's especially displeased with your environmental policies.

You see, God is an environmentalist. An original bearded, tree-hugging, sandal-wearing, flower-planting, skinny-dipping Earth Firster (only without all the beer and the incorrect use of the exclamation mark). After all, he created this beautiful planet with its majestic forests you are so fond of replacing with moonscapes.

God and I talked for hours about a whole range of topics. Did you know he was pro-wolf and grizzly reintroduction, and that he supports the Idaho Conservation League? He hates dams, though. And don't get him started about that proposed bombing range at Mountain Home. If anyone can spot a shady deal, it's God.

Anyway, I took the liberty (one of your favorite words) of asking him what additional penance you should pay for your slimy affair. Here's a partial list:

He'd like to see you send a stronger message to the nut-cases in Idaho who live in dark shacks and fondle bombs.

"Look," God said, "Idaho and the West is for all peoples, no matter what color, ethnicity, background and, of course, religion. I don't even care if they moved here from California. If Helen read the Bible more carefully instead of fooling around, she would know I've written that diversity helps us accept people who are different from us. That includes the poor, the disabled and even Republicans."

God also would like you to get the cows out of our rivers and streams, and off our public lands. "It's no secret that the creation of cows was my biggest mistake. I was trying for a cross between a bison and an elk. I never meant to create a creature so dumb that it would be confused by a painted cattle guard. You might have noticed there were no Herefords on the Ark."

Helen, God is compassionate and can repair the broken places in our souls. He loves you and will eventually forgive your lapse in judgment as soon as he finishes with the president. (That will take months.)

"Look," God told me, "I'm not perfect either. I've made mistakes: ticks, yellow-jackets, plutonium, the list is endless."

I hope you don't mind, Helen, but I asked if there was one single act you could do to clear the slate with the Big Guy.

"Tell Congresswoman Chenoweth I have one final request: I would like to see her sponsor an Idaho wilderness bill that includes at least 7 million acres of wilderness. Mountains, deserts, old-growth forests, wetlands and lakes are a kind of religion, too. If we lose them to our own worst urges (she'll know what I mean), we will have created a Hell on earth, devoid of mysteries, stories, poetry and those delicious cutthroat trout. If that happens, I'm out of here."

Stephen Lyons is a regular contributor to Writers on the Range, a syndication service of High Country News. He is the author of Landscape of the Heart: Writings on Daughters and Journeys, Washington State University Press.

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