Fags: none. Sex: maybe. Meet the Christian Bridget Jones

She doesn't drink (v gd), she doesn't smoke (vv gd) and she agonises about sex, but doesn't rule it out (v bad?). Christine Miles on the singleton causing a moral dilemma
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The Independent Online

Fag in one hand, glass of wine in another, she was a desperate 30-something singleton who finally got her man. But a new Bridget Jones is about to hit the bookshops who doesn't drink, doesn't smoke and instead of celebrating her coital encounters, struggles with the morality of having sex.

Fag in one hand, glass of wine in another, she was a desperate 30-something singleton who finally got her man. But a new Bridget Jones is about to hit the bookshops who doesn't drink, doesn't smoke and instead of celebrating her coital encounters, struggles with the morality of having sex.

This is Bridget Jones the Christian version. And in the book - Kemi's Journal of Life, Love and Everything - the central character is a 20-something, London-based advertising executive wrestling to reconcile the ideals of her new-found faith with life in the real world - in particular the resumption of a BC (Before Church) relationship with an ex-boyfriend and the complications of an unplanned pregnancy.

It is published by Scripture Union, more typically known in Christian circles for publishing daily Bible reading notes, which admits it is "a bit gritty, especially for us". But, as Lin Ball, the commissioning editor, explains, it has a serious purpose: "Bridget Jones explained the angst of 30-something singletons and this experience is not unknown in the Church. In many ways they are more acute in the Church."

The approach will not, though, be welcomed by all Christian organisations. "I would have wanted to encourage waiting until getting married before having sex and having a baby," says Margaret McVeigh from the campaign group Care.

The journal follows the tried and trusted formula: heroine Kemi's man-chase takes her on a roller-coaster of emotion: she struggles to combine work with a social life; mistakenly goes to bed with the hero; then eventually finds romantic bliss.

There is no word yet on interest from Hollywood, but Christian chick lit is huge business in the States, where the romantic publisher Harlequin Mills & Boon has set up a dedicated imprint for the genre. Potential Kemis include Rosario Dawson, currently starring in Alexander - although the switch from temptress to Christian moraliser would involve a serious role reversal.

The author of the book is a 29-year-old Nigerian human rights worker, Abidemi Sanusi, who says Kemi's Journal is loosely based on her own experience: "I grew up as a Muslim, but very much a secular Muslim, and when I became a Christian I found myself confronted with a whole new set of ideals, especially relating to dating. Dating in my church is seen as a serious matter. They encourage dating as a pretext to marriage, so serial dating is frowned upon." So too is sex before marriage - as shown in the book - and in some churches dating outside the faith.

"The Church is always under pressure from secular society but it's the Church's purpose to resist," says the famously abstemious Tory MP and church member Ann Widdecombe. "But like in everything some will cope with the challenges and some won't."

The Christian female intent on finding her own Mark Darcy who shares her views on faith and relationships faces a difficult task. In research by the Evangelical Alliance in the early 1990s, single women made up one quarter of the adult evangelical church population. In 2000 the English church census revealed the number of females had swelled to almost two-thirds of the church population.

"Life as a single Christian is very hard. They often don't get to meet people at work or at church," says Jackie Elton, the founder of Christian Connection, the UK's largest Christian internet dating site.

And secular companies have spotted the opportunities. In February last year the dating agency SpeedDater started running monthly speed-dating events in London aimed at Christian singles aged 24-42.

"We get around 20 of each sex at the events. There's definitely demand because we're filling them every time. But if it was on the number of women interested we could run the event twice a month, maybe every week," says Brooke Ellingworth, events manager at SpeedDater.

Vicky Ward, 29, a social worker in Sheffield, became a Christian when she was 18 - and admits there is a definite shortage of like-minded men. "I smoke the odd Marlboro Lite and like to have a couple of vodkas and go clubbing," she says. "I've been out with Christian and non-Christian guys but, with someone who's not a Christian, sooner or later you hit the sex issue. My faith is more important but that doesn't mean it's not a difficult choice. Bridget Jones may have had it hard finding her man, but I think for us it's even harder."

'Kemi's Journal of Life, Love and Everything' is published by Scripture Union on 21 January, priced £6.99

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