Tagged: men

For our 300th post, we asked Carl Beech to tell us just why he loves the epic testosterone-fuelled film 300…

this-is-spartaThe Battle of Thermopylae is the stuff of legend.It’s around 480BC and 300 Spartan warriors face an invasion force of 300,000 Persians.Against the odds they determine to hold them off at a narrow pass called ‘The Hot Gates’ to enable the Greek city-states to muster their various armies and form a united front. It’s a suicide mission and they know it. They fight hard and to the last man. Historians tell how the last men standing were so ferocious they fought using their hands, feet and teeth.Basically, the Greek city-states gained much needed time to muster their armies and eventually, after a brutal war, the Persian army was driven back and Greece was saved.

There’s no doubt that there were some epic moments among the tragedy of the slaughter.

In a famous exchange captured in the 2006 film 300, the historian Herodotus said this of one of the reputedly bravest warriors called Dienekes.

“He was told by a native of Trachis that the Persian archers were so numerous that their arrows would block out the sun. Dienekes, however, undaunted by this prospect, remarked with a laugh: ‘Good. Then we will fight in the shade.’”

Of course, for all you history geeks out there, the historical version differs a bit from the film but it’s true they held the line, true they all died and true that they enabled the Greek armies to overcome and win the fight.

As a film, 300 rocked the world. It’s still the 24th highest-grossing film for an opening weekend, having taken more than £456 million and has a cult following to this day.
Interestingly the film is said to be popular with men and women, particularly because it has a strong female and male lead. There’s no denying it though that many men love the film and the story. I’m one of them.

Yes there’s glorified and over-stylised violence and I’m sure it says something about our culture that violent films do so well at the box office, but I confess that the film just gripped me. Why? Because it’s a band of brothers fighting against the odds who have each other’s backs. There’s unswerving loyalty to each other and to a cause. There’s pride in who they are and the nation they represent. They refuse to quit and stay upbeat even in the face of certain death. They are well-trained, drilled and motivated. I can’t explain why, but all this, and the sense of heroic struggle, deeply appeals to me.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a throwback dinosaur of a man (I can picture the nodding heads) or perhaps it’s because something deep within me wants to fight for a noble cause and get into a scrap. I think it’s probably something to do with my testosterone levels. Society wants me to be tame and so does the Church – or at least that’s what it tends to communicate.

My role model however isn’t King Leonidas, the Spartan warrior, or a gentile parish vicar; it’s Jesus, and in the words of C S Lewis: “Aslan is not a tame lion.”

This blog was first published here…

Carl Beech kicks off his all-male guest editor week with a challenge to all of us to realise that we are all deeper and more complex than might appear on the surface.

fruitteaOkay, before we get into this, I need to lay my cards face up on the table.

I like fast cars and motorbikes – especially loud ones. I enjoy hot curry. I listen to indie bands and prog rock. I don’t get the skinny jeans thing and prefer to wear my trousers around my waist and not hanging off my rear. I own an air rifle. I like toys and gadgets and one of my favourite films isRocky II (arguably the best of the lot of ‘em).

I also like top 10 lists, facts and stats about any sort of vehicle, building or structure and like to see things explode – especially caravans. I lift weights, go fishing, enjoy a sporting challenge that hurts (I’m running the Snowdonia marathon in a few months’ time) and don’t like clothes shopping or musicals. I mean, why sing when you can have a conversation? I love hanging out with the blokes and enjoy real ale and good wine. I am a cliché of a man.

Or so you would think.

I’m also married and have two daughters. This means I watch chick flicks. I’m not stereotyping women, it’s a fact that they like them, so I watch them with them because I like their company. I have to say that another one of my favourite films is Sleepless in Seattle (every man needs a guilty pleasure). Gets me every time. It also means I get to cast opinions on clothes, make-up, self image, romance dilemmas and demonstrate tenderness and gentleness towards my daughters. I hug my kids, and tell all the girls in my life every day that I love them. In fact, I love nothing more than a night in with my family. I also dabble in playing both classical piano and guitar, read history books, enjoy star-gazing and have published some poems. Go figure. Unbelievably, I also love to cook for my family and tidy up afterwards. I’m also an animal lover with a big soft spot for dogs. (I have something of a small zoo). I also have a thing about nature in general and a little-known fact is that I like trees and was once a member of the Woodland Trust.

The point being, we are all deeper and more complex than might appear on the surface.

Don’t make the mistake of pigeon-holing someone because they like certain things or talk a certain way. It’s discrimination. This often happens to me. As an example, I was once introduced as:

“This is Carl Beech, don’t let his accent and appearance fool you, he’s actually quite bright underneath it all.”

On another occasion, someone said:

“You don’t look and sound like someone with two degrees.”

If it wasn’t funny, words like that can really wind a guy from Essex up. The thing is that by the same token, telling me what I should or shouldn’t be in order to be a man is equally as offensive. And nor should I, as the leader of an international men’s ministry define what a so called ‘real man’ should look and sound like.

It mildly amuses me that for the most part it’s women who are commentating on what real masculinity is. I could cite many articles written by women on this issue. Now think about it. If I as a man was to publish an article on ‘femininity’, I would probably be rounded up and kicked out of Dodge before you could say ‘internal combustion engine’. Leave us be. We’ll work it out.

Back to the heading; personally, I think fruit tea is a bit weird. It’s a bit like drinking hot blackcurrant juice but paying a lot more for it. Why bother? But if that’s ya poison, fill ya boots. In my opinion, the same goes for the way some men choose to express their masculinity. The bottom line is this: be your own man. Things go wrong when men feel they have to order a beer at a bar, just because everyone else is. If you want an orange juice then have one. Babycham is a different story. The same goes for sport. I don’t massively follow football. Surprised you now, haven’t I? I get interested because millions of men are interested and it’s a great way to reach out. I feel no pressure to conform though. You like playing the harp and tapestry as a man? Fine by me. You like loud engines and real ale? Fine by me. You like skinny jeans? Bit weird, but fine by me! And so it should be for all of us.

What I will do is challenge negative aspects of masculinity. Violence against women, propagating sex trafficking by visiting brothels, buying porn etc. I won’t knock testosterone though. And nor should you. That there are men willing to use their testosterone to keep us safe and lay down their lives is always ignored when men are criticised for their aggression. It can be harnessed for good and not ill. The world needs strong and fearless men on a number of different levels. Radical love through to radical ‘life on the line’ action.

Anyway, as far as I am concerned, there are millions of men in the UK who like the ‘man stuff’ who don’t know Jesus. Christian Vision for Men and I meet them on their turf and in a way that they understand. The Church needs to grasp this idea as well and ban streamers and God snog songs. Maybe I’m a cliché in your eyes, but for the sake of the millions of men dying without Jesus, I’m happy to be one. Just don’t buy me a fruit tea if we ever meet.

This blog was first published here…

Be known in this life for the way you give, not the way you take.
Live generously in word and deed.
If you lend anything, do it as if you will never get back what you lent
Travel lightly through life, holding nothing material too tightly
Only hold tight your family, the people you call “friend”
Your faith in God.

Be known for being a man of justice, not blind to the needs of the world
Be compassionate
Be kind to your fellow man, make mercy and justice your traveling companions
Seek to do what is good, resist evil, never allow hatred of men a root in your life.
Only hate and despise that which imprisons mens hearts
And takes them on a road to hell

Love your family and treasure moments, enjoy friendships
Spend more time with people
Always give people the benefit of the doubt and believe the best
Be prepared to get hurt, walk humbly, live vulnerably
Guard your heart, keep it soft and never let it harden
Or your enemy wins

Work hard but don’t make work your master
Leader or follower you are a servant
Whatever you do, you do before an audience of one
Be diligent, honest, respectful and known as a man who finishes the task
Take criticism well, listen and take advice
Or you’ll fall into error

You’ll one day breathe your last breath
Live life in readiness for the final journey
Keep God close, walk in repentance before Him
Make sure you are at peace with all men
Point others to the place where you are heading
When that time comes, if your heart is right and you are walking with the King
You will receive a faith heroes welcome

Carl Beech 12/12