Saturday, March 21, 2020

My Childhood Introduction to the Bible (1 of 5)

By John Sanidopoulos

My family never had a family Bible. In fact, the Bible played no role in my upbringing. I was a typical Greek Orthodox Christian kid, who went to church once or twice a month, with the summer months off completely. I went to Greek School twice a week throughout elementary school, and Sunday School only for about two years. When I was around 6 or 7 years old my mother removed me from Sunday School and made a special request to my priest to have me serve in the altar as an altar boy. Typically you had to be at least 12 or 13 to be an altar boy, but my priest made the exception and I began to serve in the altar. I was relieved, because I was bored of coloring in sketches from the Bible which had little to no meaning, and drawing figures of three crosses on a hill. The altar was much more exciting, because I was at the center of the action, and I got to hang around mostly high school kids, even though the two main altar servers were bullies.

If I were to trace my first introduction to the Bible, it would have to be my grandmother. My grandmother lived in Greece, and the only time as a child I remember visiting her was when I was 7 years old, though she visited us in Boston a few times as well. My grandmother was a very pious Orthodox Christian woman, who often went to church and loved God very much. I would typically sleep in the same bed with her, and before bed, and sometimes even during the day, she would tell me fascinating stories from the lives of the saints, ancient Greek heroes, and biblical figures. She had a special gift for telling stories to children, and even in the middle of the day my sisters and I would beg her to tell us stories, and we would listen very carefully and enthusiastically. It was from my grandmother that I inherited my love for stories and for storytelling. The times I was with my grandmother were few and far between, and I hungered to hear her stories. My first grade Greek School teacher would also tell us stories, but those were mainly about Greek myths, which I loved, but the way my grandmother brought the saints to life was what I especially enjoyed.

My love for stories manifested itself in two other ways. First, I loved books. I collected books. Whenever my parents brought us to a toy store, the first section I went to was the children's books section. There was this one book I read 26 times of a boy that turned into a plant. And whenever we were given a choice in school to purchase books from Scholastic, I was always the kid that bought the biggest stack. Secondly, I loved cartoons. Every Saturday morning I woke up early to watch cartoons all morning long. And when I would get home from school every day, the first thing I did was turn on the TV and watch cartoons. My favorite cartoon was He-Man, and I still remember the best Christmas I ever had was in fourth grade when I got a bunch of He-Man toys. I loved cartoons so much that I would even try to wake up early every day so I can watch cartoons before going to school. This is when everything changed.

Early on weekday morning there weren't a lot of cartoons to watch and choose from, but the one they did have on when I was around 6 years old that played at 7:00AM till 7:30AM was a cartoon called Superbook. Superbook was a Japanese anime television series in English from the early 1980s that chronicled the events of the Bible's Old and New Testaments. The first 26 episodes aired from October 1, 1981 to March 25, 1982. The series returned as Superbook II with 26 episodes from April 4, 1983 to September 26, 1983. Episode 1 of Superbook was about a boy named Chris, his friend named Joy and his robot named Gizmo, who one day noticed in his attic a book glowing. Unable to open the book, it suddenly opened on its own and transported the three of them to the Garden of Eden where they experienced the story of Adam and Eve. Each episode likewise brings them into a different biblical story, mainly from the Old Testament though some from the New as well. When this series was completed, it was followed by The Flying House which broadcasted between April 1982 and March 1983, which was roughly the same thing as Superbook, but not as good. The only other children's series inspired by the Bible I saw at this time was Davey and Goliath every Sunday, which I also loved, but it was more morality tales.

Superbook was an immensely popular cartoon with kids at the time, though I was the only one I knew that watched it. It introduced me to the Bible in a very profound way. It made me be fascinated with the Bible. It was a very well done series that was fun and reverential and moral. If I were to introduce the Bible to a child, I would try showing them Superbook. It captivates the imagination and makes the Bible come to life. As a child, this was the only biblical education I really had. No one introduced it to me. It was just something I discovered turning the channels. I have never seen the rebooted series, so I have no comment on it. But what Superbook did for me was it helped me to get to know the stories and people of the Bible, mainly the Old Testament, even though I had never opened up a Bible in my life.

The first episode of Superbook is below. The rest of the first two original seasons can be seen here.