Which Springfielder will make a play to replace Maude?
It's wrong to speak ill of the dead, but Maude never deserved Ned. Though Springfield USA is a little short on single women, he can do so much better. Let's evaluate potential spouses through the only lens that matters to Ned: their Christian virtue.
1. Edna Krabappel, Springfield Elementary's fourth-grade teacher, seems an obvious choice. She's eminently single, and her teaching background theoretically means she's good with children and could raise Ned's boys well. But upon closer inspection, she's shrewish and lacking in all spiritual qualities. She has loose morals: she smokes, she drinks, and we sense that if the Fox censors weren't alert, she'd swear. She's off the list.
2. Selma Bouvier, Marge Simpsons' McGyver-obsessed sister, also doesn't make the cut. Like Edna, she is desperately seeking a man, and has tried to find love with the likes of Troy McClure, Lionel Hutz, and Sideshow Bob. But would Ned take to his bosom a thrice-divorced woman? Not if he holds to Matthew 5:32 and its strictures on marrying divorcees.
3. Could Mindy, the red-haired nuclear plant worker who tempted Homer to stray, be a candidate? She seems sweet-tempered, and might be willing to labor with Ned at the soup kitchen, the blood drive, and the book mobile. But no. She loves doughnuts, naps, and room service. She's simply too sensual for Ned, who needs someone for whom earthly comforts hold no allure.
4. Mrs. Van Houten, Milhouse's mom, is now divorced. Overlooking the issues raised in point #2, she might make Ned a good wife--she lacks imagination, but that never stopped Maude. However, her choice of male companionship is suspect. In one episode, she dates a hunky American Gladiator. She picks brawn over brains, appearance over substance. Ned is no slouch in beefcake department, as we know from his shirtless moment in the community play "Oh! Streetcar!" But he needs a woman who can see beyond externals and into his heart.
Like many a great man, Ned will have to look beyond his familiar confines for a woman worthy of the name Mrs. Flanders:
5. Deep within a trailer park ("14 days since last tornado"), far from the hurly-burly of Springfield, sits a woman who could make Ned Flanders happy. Lurleen Lumpkin, country singer extraordinaire, is sweet, lonely, and ripe to accept Jesus as her personal savior. Her achy breaky heart led her to pursue Homer, and she's had hard times on the road as she's built her career. But a poignant, forsaken note in her songs makes us sense she's willing to repent of her seductive and self-destructive ways.
Maude might call her a Jezebel, but no other single woman on the Simpsons has the combination of charm, winsome neediness, and stick-to-itiveness that this country star does. Lurleen, renounce your borderline-adulterous tune--"Your Wife Don't Understand You, But I Do"--and your troubled past. Resolve to solace Ned in his affliction--after a suitable period of mourning, of course. With a little counseling from Reverend Lovejoy, you and Ned can make a happy Christian home.