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Columnists

Nice but naughty

Jude Simpson

A friend was recounting a story about someone he had recently been introduced to. 'Someone with potential?' I ask. 'Well,' he replies, pausing to find an accurate yet tactful formulation, 'she's a nice Christian girl...'
Nothing further is needed. The 'but' looms larger than the 'every head is bowed' at the end of an evangelist's talk. We both go quiet, then I chuckle, partly in sympathy for my anonymous, overlooked sister.

Somehow, if you put the words 'nice,' 'Christian' and 'girl' in that sequence, they create a wet and unappealing shadow of the sum of their parts. I'd certainly like to think I'm all those things separately, but I'd be gutted if I knew someone was using the three, in that order, to describe me.

Why? Being nice is good. Being Christian, is good. Being a girl - well, what higher calling?
I canvass another single male friend (he's nice, by the way, and Christian). 'Definitely not interested' he asserts as soon as I try the NCG formulation. 'So what would interest you?' I ask, 'an intelligent Christian woman?' 'Not sure'. 'A feisty Christian female?' 'Possibly.' 'A sexy Christian minx?' 'Now you're talking!'

(Later in our conversation, my friend admits that he himself is something of a Bumbling Christian Wreck, but it makes no odds - in a woman he still prefers sexy to nice, even when I point out that nice might last longer.)

You'll notice, though, that throughout the options, the 'Christian' bit is non-negotiable. The men I spoke to are genuinely interested in women with a spiritual element to their lives, who seek truth more doggedly than happiness, and who live according to principles more than whims. Yet somehow, once the term 'Christian' is applied to a woman, there is an automatic need to counteract the sense of safe, predictable, bland, sexless mediocrity which our culture has attributed to the word.

So why is niceness so unappealing, even to a community which ought to prize kindness, goodness and self-control? I might not want to be a nice Christian girl, but I don't want to be a cynical Christian cow either.

I guess we're all looking for a person who can combine in themselves the essence of two of the Bible's most crucial commands - 'take the gospel to the ends of the earth' and 'go forth and multiply.' The former can only happen if you're a genuine Christian, but the latter is seldom arrived at through being nice.

Perhaps we crave something from each other that goes beyond what is safe. The word 'Christian' originally referred to people who were a bit like Christ. So in its truest use, it ought to mean unpredictable, challenging, difficult to control, truthful, dangerous and inspiring.

Part of me would like to complain about men's vicissitudes, their capriciousness when looking for a mate. But I can't talk. I'm looking for a testosterone-fuelled, Christian rogue.