The Obstinate Lighthouse

Jesus wasn’t the only one who spoke in parables.

The story of the Obstinate Lighthouse is an enduring parable of our own times. None of this is literally true. (US Navy, 1997). But it is still a powerful parable.

“ACTUAL transcript of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October, 1995. This radio conversation was released by the Chief of Naval Operations on 10-10-95.

“Americans: “Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.”

“Canadians: “Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.”

“Americans: “This is the captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.”

“Canadians: “No, I say again, you divert YOUR course.”

“Americans: “THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES’ ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES NORTH. THAT’S ONE-FIVE DEGREES NORTH, OR COUNTER MEASURES WILL BE UNDERTAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THIS SHIP.”

“Canadians: “This is a lighthouse. Your call.”

multiple sources

Possible interpretations of this contemporary parable:

  • Might doesn’t make right.
  • Calm but firm statements of truth offered without judgement can overcome even fierce and frightening attempts at bullying your compliance with inadvisable actions.

I suspect that Jesus probably would have approved.

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