The Bibleman Show: Big Big Book (1995)
I became a Christian in December 1997 at the age of 18. I didn’t grow up in a church culture, didn’t attend Sunday School and I definitely wasn’t exposed to “Christian Entertainment”. So it’s kind of hard to explain why I’m fascinated by Bibleman. It’s not like I’m looking back on it through a nostalgic lens. I have no cherished Childhood memories that help me overlook the rough edges. I’m not reminiscing of a simpler time.
I’m honestly watching these things and wondering what made the creators of this show think that this was a good idea. And loving every moment in a guilty pleasure kind of way.
Checking out the kids DVD section of the local Christian bookstore these days, the shelves are filled with movies (mostly involving vegetables) telling kids about Jesus. There’s a very broad range when it comes to quality. All of them are well-meaning but quite a few of them are poorly conceived and produced on a smaller budget than a 1970s episode of Doctor Who. Honestly, a lot of these movies are cringeworthy. Especially when they end up mangling the message of Jesus.
The 80s and 90s, with the rise of home video, saw an onslaught of Christian kids videos. Instead of allowing kids to be corrupted by the godless communism of The Smurfs, Christian parents could shove one of those “Christian” movies into the VCR and let Jesus rule the cathode ray tube box. [Please note: I don’t really think the Smurfs are godless communists. I hate them because they are annoyingly cute and are indirectly responsible for the existence of the Snorks].
In 1995, the first video in the Bibleman series hit the shelves. (Kids, a video is this small, black plastic box that you put into a metal box connected to your TV that played movies, and is in no way superior to DVDs like vinyl is superior to the CD.) The Bibleman Show: Big Big Book is a curious beast. On the surface it looks like it wants to tap into the superhero genre with a Christian twist. Not a bad idea when you consider that Batman Forever was one of the biggest movies of that year. But other than the appearance of the Bibleman character, there is nothing “super” about this video. It’s an old school “kids put on a show” story with a brief appearance of some random creepy adult in spandex. It’s little wonder that this first Bibleman installment is considered a “lost episode” as it has never been released on DVD (and I really can’t picture a reality where it ever would be).
This straight to home video adventure begins with the Bibleman logo, a logo so 90s that it could have appeared on an episode of Saved By The Bell. Playing over the top is the Bibleman theme song. When the lyrics shout out “The Bibleman is coming so you better stick around” I’m not sure if it’s meant to be a threat or a treat. “Kids, you better eat all your veggies because the Bibleman is coming.” “Son, don’t hit your brother ’cause the Bibleman is coming.” I’m now picturing a reboot of the Bibleman franchise as an urban thriller where this guy in purple spandex carries a big, old-school, leather bound KJV and brings the wrath of God down on wayward kids. Let’s file that idea away in the “things that never will or never should exist” folder for now.
So I’m hanging in there. Because I know the Bibleman formula. I know he’s going to put on his Bible based super-suit and go fight some over-the-top bad guy while randomly quoting Scripture. But after 35 years of life on this planet, I should be used to disappointment. Because the Bibleman creators clearly came up with the formula sometime after this film. What we have instead are six ethnically diverse but non-threatening kids singing and awkwardly dancing to a song about the Bible. Yep, it’s time to put on a show. The Bibleman logo may be on the back wall. There may be a cardboard cutout of a Bible themed superhero on the stage. But this movie is about some plucky young kids belting out love songs to the Good Book. Massive disappointment.
It doesn’t even look like the kids are convinced that this is a good idea. “That sounded pretty dog-gone interesting.” Is that the best you can do? Could you possibly muster up any more enthusiasm? Probably not without the help of a grown-up in costume. It’s at this point the characters start speaking for me, except it’s in a totally ironic, unintended kind of way. “I don’t want to be negative or anything…” But I sure do, totally non-threatening young person. “I don’t think we’re ready for this.” You know, I think you might be right.
But wait! A completely awkward and clumsy adult has just burst into the room. He’s so dorky, he couldn’t possibly be Bibleman. Nah, just kidding, he’s totally Bibleman. It’s 80’s sitcom “star” Willie Aimes! I wonder if he and Kirk Cameron ever get together to reminisce and trade Bible study tips? Noticing that the kids are totally out of their depth, Not-At-All-Bibleman ducks out to pray for the poor, unfortunate souls who grace The Bibleman Show stage. And with the aid of 90’s straight-to-video special effects, transforms into Bibleman! Did not see that coming. JK, totally saw that coming.
Thinking that the only thing holding them back from a career on Broadway is lacking over-sized props, the kids are back to rehearsals. “This isn’t working!” Hey, child actor! Stop stealing my lines. And that’s when Bibleman bursts into the scene. And when I say “bursts”, I’m definitely talking about the bulge in his spandex. Totally inappropriate. There’s a reason that Superman wears the underwear on top of his tights. Take note! The only thing about Bibleman’s costume that comes close to the “let’s make a phone call to community services” bulging wrongness is the yellow foam used to construct his armour. I’m pretty sure that if Bibleman was stuck in the wilderness, he could use his armour as a sleeping mat. Creepy guy in purple spandex asks the kids what’s wrong. “We just don’t feel like we’re good enough.” At this point I’m thinking I could stop writing the review and just write down the dialogue. “God’s probably sitting up there and saying ‘nice lamo show, kids.’” Firstly, that’s ableist language there, son. Knock it off. Secondly, God is love and wouldn’t say that. Me, on the other hand… “Well, Chad, you just might be right.” Look Bibleman, I’m trying to ridicule you, but you’re taking all the fun out of it.
Here we have a momentous first for the Bibleman series – their first out of context Bible quote. It wouldn’t be Bibleman without it. “God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9” Somehow I don’t think Paul had musical theater in mind when he wrote that verse down. Or did he… I really should investigate the original Greek. But no time for that, because we’re getting a Bibleman flashback. Please, please, please, let’s see some superhero action!
We see some swords clashing in extreme close up. At least I think they’re swords. Let’s just wait for them to pull back so we can see this thrilling action choreography. Nope. We just cut to Bibleman defeated in a dungeon. I’d say worse hero ever, but I can’t pretend I’ve never read the New Guardians comics from DC in the 80s. No amount of alcohol can wash away that pain. Now it’s time for the bad guy, Decepto, to gloat. Decepto? You’re not even trying. He can’t even get villainous ranting right. “No longer will you spread that ridiculous truth.” Well, aren’t we just the mess of contradictions. Is this the bit where we see Bibleman’s epic escape before he wins the day? Nope. He quotes a Bible verse and somehow the villain is captured by the power of lazing script writing. Yay!
Somehow, the moral of the story Bibleman has just told is “God is not interested in you producing the results.” For the sake of these youngsters, Bibleman better be right, because we ain’t going to see any results tonight. “The fact we love god so much and try our hardest is what matters. And he will take care of the rest.” Sorry Bibleman, that’s a salvation by works doctrine. You just made a Calvanist somewhere lose his wings. Again, I’m reminded of the awkward truth that this is a grown man in purple spandex spending time unsupervised with a group of preteens. I am definitely not comfortable with this.
And here we have evidence that there are adults in this world who actually have a valid reason to be spending time with young people – the dad of one of the kids. One second, is all of this in that kids garage? Bibleman waltzing into their house makes me feel uncomfortable. And they’re doing a show about him in the garage? And people are going to come and watch? Where is this world and why does logic or common sense not apply? I have far more questions than answers here.
Now it’s time for the Bibleman Show. “I hear there’s a special guest” – if that special guest is Bibleman, in a show called The Bibleman Show, then your parents and school teachers are due for a very long sit down talk. Because that’s not how surprises work. Just quietly, the kids in the audience are way too excited about all of this. There must have been a lot of sugar consumption on the set that day. We kick off the show with a sketch. If green slime falls from the ceiling, then You Can’t Do a that On Television has reason to be irate. Oh no, it’s not a sketch. It’s a musical number. Will somebody please think of the children? Then we switch to a 50s themed song and I’m wondering how big this garage is that they can fit in all these sets. I bet it’s bigger than the actual house.
Kids, use the Bible to stop thinking about science…. Hey, the Bible is a really awesome book and all, but you know it’s okay to use books other than the Bible, right? There’s a whole science vs creationism debate ready to happen and these kids are woefully unprepared because they think the answers to their chemistry homework are hidden somewhere in the book of Malachi. One second, where did that saxophone come from? Who said you were allowed a saxophone. People, this is a serious sax offender, right here.
Now I’m wondering, where is Bibleman? The only reason I’m watching this is for Bibleman! Where is he? Oh, there he is. Teleporting onto the stage Star Trek style. One second, he can do that? Is that how he got out of the dungeon before? So many unanswered questions. So, Bibleman is the special guest. Do I win some kind of Bingo prize for that? No? Carry on. And he’s brought with him his own branded Bibles. I used to work at a Christian bookshop that mostly sold Bibles. One day, someone came in asking for a Bible that was produced and signed by a big name American celebrity preacher. I thought that was wrong on so many levels. Still think it’s wrong here. “How about a cheer for the Bible?” gets as much enthusiasm as “How about a cheer for cheese?”
Apparently Psalm 1 tell us that reading the Bible will keep you wise, stop you doing wrong and make you happy. Just putting it out there Bibleman – blessed is not the same as happy. There’s a bit of prosperity gospel going on here along with your salvation by works doctrine. But no time for theological discussion! We must have more singing. This time it’s a number so close to being Can You Feel The Love Tonight – except without the lion mating rituals or anything to keep me awake. They even fill the screen corners with clouds – making me wish this was a dream. Except it would be a nightmare.
More unanswered questions: Wouldn’t these kids be disappointed that their adult friend Miles didn’t show up? He was so keen and supporting before, but now he’s a no-show. And don’t give me any of that “Miles and Bibleman are the same person” nonsense. Next you’ll be trying to convince me that Clark Kent and Superman are the same guy.
So here we have a bunch of random songs about the Bible masquerading as a superhero story. Who needs context? Or Biblical Theology? Or an understanding of God’s revelation? Or the message of salvation that’s at the core of the Bible? Nah, it’s all about being happy. Let’s not get too deep here. The big message here is that if you read the Bible, you’ll never go wrong. But this is a prime example of how if you take verses out of context and don’t read the Bible on it’s own terms, you can end up in all kinds of wacky places.
“See you next time.” Oh, dear Lord, there’s going to be a next time, isn’t there? It can’t get any worse, can it? Now to track down a copy of The Bibleman Show: Back To School, where I’m sure we’ll hear some interesting stories about Jesus riding velociraptors.