home
RSS
April 28th, 2012
09:52 PM ET

My Faith: What does God sound like?

Editor's note: Listen to the CNN podcast of this piece: Karen Spears Zacharias is author of A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder (MacAdam/Cage, 2012) and is on Twitter at @karenzach.

By Karen Spears Zacharias, Special to CNN

I hear the audible voice of God. No, not in the same way that the Bible’s Eve did when God asked her outright and out loud: “Woman, what in my name have you done now?”

Scriptures don’t tell us specifically, but I suspect at that particular moment in eternity God must have sounded a lot like Perry Mason: “C’mon, tell the truth. You know I’m a specialist on getting people out of trouble.”

Bestselling author Patti Callahan Henry is a pastor’s daughter in Alabama. You’d think if God spoke to anybody, it would be a pastor’s child, but Patti swears she has never heard the voice of God. The only time God speaks to her is through the written word.

I find that odd since God talks to me all the time.


CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Certainly God knows I’m an auditory learner, so if he wants my attention he has to talk to me. When God speaks to me, he sounds a lot like Garrison Keillor, host of the radio show “A Prairie Home Companion." In other words, he’s engaging, often very funny, and almost always an absolute joy to be around. Even when God’s mad with me (more often that I care to admit), he’s fairly good-natured about it.

Theologians who study this sort of thing say that our image of God is formed by our relationships with our fathers. That image is formed in part by how our fathers speak to us. If they bark orders at us all the time, we might hear God as a crank. But if our fathers speak to us in instructive, encouraging tones, we may hear God as our best coach. My father died when I was young, so I don’t remember his voice, but I’ve listened to Garrison Keillor pretty regularly for 25 years.

When my husband and I were raising our children, we banned television from our household. "A Prairie Home Companion" was our primary form of entertainment on Sunday afternoons. With Sundays as our Sabbath, I suppose it is natural for me to associate God with Garrison.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

Many people don’t even speak to God, much less listen to what he has to say. I imagine for some the thought of a God as Garrison Keillor would be pure hell, what with all that Guy Noir Private Eye nonsense and those saccharin sweet ketchup commercials. Perhaps like a good mother, though, God resorts to a variety of different voices to reach all of her children. Do you identify any of the following?

- Spock, from “Star Trek,” is the defining voice of God. Spock is half-mother (human) and half-father (Vulcan). Who could be more egalitarian, more Godlike than that? Anyone who thinks of God as arbitrary and capricious needs to have a chat with Mr. Spock, who once so rightly noted, “Nowhere am I so desperately needed as among a shipload of illogical humans.” Amen. Amen.

- James Earl Jones. If I heard that baritone voice calling to me from a burning bush, it would stop me in my tracks. Who cares that Jones couldn’t cut the muster at Fort Benning’s legendary Ranger school? That’s nothing more than boot camp for a bunch of hellions anyway. There is something about the thundering power of Jones’ voice that naturally evokes trust from us. And if we can’t have a God in whom we can trust, what’s the point?

- Surely, Jeff Bridges is the voice of God for all the remnant of Jesus Freaks now seeking refuge as Episcopalians. “I am not Mr. Lebowski,” Bridge’s says in Coen Brothers’ “Big Lewoski,” in one of the oft-quoted lines in that cult classic. “You’re Mr. Lebowski. I am The Dude, so that’s what you call me. That or His Dudeness or uh, Duder, or, El Duderino, if you're not into the whole brevity thing.” Of course, aging Jesus Freaks and Episcopalians alike are all about that brevity thing, so they happily go along with “the Dude abides,” another classic line from the film.

- Yoda, of “Star Wars,” is the voice of God for Zen-seeking, yoga-loving Emergent Christians. Emergents are the melting pot of Christianity, the place where hipsters who want to be spiritual but not religious go for community - typically a local brewery or Starbucks. “Luminous beings are we,” says Yoda. “Not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere!”

- Writer C. Terry Cline Jr. says when God speaks to him, it is in the scolding voice of Pee-Wee Herman - “What did I tell you?” In Cline’s latest book, "The Return of Edgar Caycee," Cline claims he was channeled by the previously deceased reincarnation guru, whose fan club has rivaled that of God’s. Is it any wonder God is miffed with Cline for conjuring up Caycee again?

- Your momma. Sonny Brewer, a Navy veteran and my editor at San Francisco’s publishing house MacAdam/Cage, says that the only voice he’s ever associated with God was his mother’s. Sonny’s mom has been nearly mute for nearly 20 years, the result of a stroke. “She can sing hymns but she can’t talk,” Sonny says. “When I think of God speaking to me, I think of my momma. Like God, she always loves me, even when I’m a bad boy.”

Whatever the cause, nobody enjoys getting the silent treatment. It is a particularly troubling matter when God goes silent on us, when we can’t hear his voice at all, whether it’s a tender whisper of encouragement, raucous laughter, or a thundering rebuke, it is then that we are most keenly aware of God.

Silence stills us. We pause and listen, ear pressed, waiting, anticipating, hoping for just a word of assurance that we have not been abandoned.

We all have had days when we feel like we’ve failed God. If in such moments we would listen to the wind in the trees, the waves curling on the beach, feet crunching in sand, and the song of the mockingbird as the evening sun sets, we would surely hear creator God singing hymns over us, his creation.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Karen Spears Zacharias.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Movies

soundoff (3,288 Responses)
  1. aginghippy

    How cute! People imagining what their imaginary friend might sound like.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:05 am |
  2. peoria

    God sounds like Martin Luther and Joel Osteen and Ted Haggard you stupid commie liberal protestant idiot

    April 29, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • FSM

      Nope. He sounds like Sponge Bob. Don't you know anything? 😉

      April 29, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  3. Daniel from Brooklyn

    What asinine form of journalism is this supposed to be and how did this end up on the CNN homepage? This is embarrassing, even by the standards of a religion/opinion piece. Hey CNN homepage editor: your editorial skills are bad, and you should feel bad.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  4. gitnr

    Obviously hardly anybody commenting here can read anything just for fun anymore.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  5. FSM

    CNN, do you really have to post religious crap every friggin' SUNDAY? Oh well. It gives me something to make fun of on a weekly basis.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • Hitchens

      What do you expect CNN to post on a belief blog? What a rocket scientist you are !

      April 29, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • FSM

      Hitchens, you don't understand what I am saying, obviously. I am saying there should not be a religion blog at all. People like you only listen to what your pastor reads to you or tells you to read, anyway. Now go to church and bleat along in unison with the rest of the congregation. BAAAAAAAAA.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  6. fcs25

    This article is a joke...correct? Or is it written by a member of some mental ward? If the Christian concept of God exist he has to be repulsed by this attempt of humor.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • Dean

      fcs25 This article is not a joke and rather than an attempt at humor in the way God speaks to his children, it lays out the many ways God uses to speak to us. As for the way we hear God other than reading the bible, it is in our mind with a clarity not matched by any human person on earth. I my self have experienced his voice ranging from a stern rebuke in cases where I had coming to us both laughing at my silly mistake and the results. As for the mental ward sourced basis for the article, that would appear to me as a commentary on Christianity in general by those who either do not see the that a physical creature such as ourselves require a spiritual foundation or they reject God for one or more reasons. With the many failings of Christians in full view of the public, it is no wonder there are so many that doubt there is a true and unchanging God. I will pray for you that you find God and peace for your soul.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  7. Patrick

    This is front-page commentary? What is this, Fox News? I read it just to comment on how silly this is.

    So she hears voices that we all have heard, but twists them to fit into her faith or into the context of whatever she's going through. That's not the voice of God, that's Leonard Nimoy. Let me make this clear: SHE IS NOT HEARING GOD and she knows it. She thinks Yoda is his vessel, which is perhaps even more delusional.

    Four of the six voices of God she listed were TV and movie personalities. Too bad she banned TV from her children. Guess they won't hear God, will they?

    April 29, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  8. rjo3491

    I think God is speaking to me now. I have to leave this conversation to take my morning dump.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  9. shawn

    if your hearing voices in your head,your crazy!!!!!

    April 29, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  10. Aezel

    ""A Prairie Home Companion" was our primary form of entertainment on Sunday afternoons. With Sundays as our Sabbath, I suppose it is natural for me to associate God with Garrison."

    I know Garrison personally. He's an a****le. Poor choice lady, poor choice.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Name*Chedar

      I know many out there associate God with Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. I know for sure the GOP and the Tea Party do.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  11. stjdsj

    True Christians have everything to gain (eternal life) and nothing to lose (except the pleasures of sin in this short life); while unbelievers have everything to lose (eternal torment in Hell) and nothing to gain (except the pleasures of sin in this short life).
    If Christians are wrong, they will only rot in the grave as unbelievers do; but if Christians are right, they will live forever in a painless, righteous world with eternal bodies, while unbelievers suffer forever in torture.

    Eternity is a long, long time to be wrong!

    “The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." (Psalm14:1)

    April 29, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • vylo

      The flying Spaghetti monster is more benevolent then the Christian god, you have everything to gain by believing in him!

      April 29, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • FSM

      blah, blah, blah.... Do you realize how stupid this all sounds to rational human beings?

      April 29, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • n8263

      What if Islam is the truth? Fools think Pascal's Wager is logical.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • FSM

      You see? The Flying Spaghetti Monster is talking to you. Two of us posted at the same time in response to you. It's a miracle! RAMEN!

      April 29, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • Aezel

      The argument you have just presented is known as Pascal's Wager and it is a thoroughly laughable argument to anyone with a brain.

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZpJ7yUPwdU&w=640&h=360]

      April 29, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • JT

      Too bad you've fallen for the arrogant idea that there are only two choices, your's which is the correct one and everyone else who are wrong. Turns out the Jews were correct to not fall for this false prophit called Jesus and you've been duped by satan and will roast for eternity along side all non-Jews. Enjoy hell sucker!

      April 29, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Patrick

      I'm not spending this life, the only life I have, praising a fantasy megalomaniacal tyrant who will supposedly cast me to hell if I don't compliment him enough. The fear of hell is just a device used to keep little children (and Christians with the mentality of little children, which is most) in line.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Kebos

      An often said reason to be a Christian. To equate unbelievers to be sinners is an arrogant assumption. I don't believe in Jesus as the son of god as much as I don't believe in Santa Claus. But I am not a sinner. I apply the golden rule every day in my life. I treat all living things with respect and dignity. I don't cheat, lie, kill and I am faithful to my wife. If by some wild stretch of imagination there was a heaven (which there isn't) and I was not allowed to ever enter because I was an unbeliever, then fine by me. It would take an eternity for me to want to be part of such an unjust place.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • cigarsnwhiskey

      Ah, the hoary old Pascal's Wager.

      This is what Sam Harris says:

      "Beliefs are not like clothing: comfort, utility, and attractiveness cannot be one’s conscious criteria for acquiring them. It is true that people often believe things for bad reasons—self-deception, wishful thinking, and a wide variety of other cognitive biases really do cloud our thinking—but bad reasons only tend to work when they are unrecognized. Pascal’s wager suggests that a rational person can knowingly believe a proposition purely out of concern for his future gratification. I suspect no one ever acquires his religious beliefs in this way (Pascal certainly didn’t). But even if some people do, who could be so foolish as to think that such beliefs are likely to be true?"

      Now, go "talk" to yer invisible cloud being – just leave the rest of us alone.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  12. Aezel

    Lol this lady is so far off the deep end even the sharks won't come after her. Delusional episodes with schizophrenic paranoid fantasy. She needs a psychologist.

    April 29, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    April 29, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • FSM

      Insanity is not healthy for children and other living things, but I bet that's what you have at your house.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Argonaut

      Yes....prayer gives your children permanent psychosis and false hope.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • nope

      @fsm
      nope
      @argonaut
      nope

      April 29, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  14. Argonaut

    Just click your heels together and repeat "there's no place like home."

    April 29, 2012 at 8:58 am |
  15. ZCarter

    What a load of crap.

    April 29, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  16. SCOOBY DOO

    Amen, toArgonaut. Amen.

    April 29, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • Argonaut

      Gilligan: "Sorry Skipper...I forgot to use the glue and the boat we just fixed sank in the lagoon." Skipper: "That's okay little God."

      April 29, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  17. thinquer

    Hebrews 1:1,2 God today speaks to us through the pages of the Bible, the written account of his works and his Son. If we don't start there, we can imagine anything we hear to be coming from Him, and go off track. Start there just to be sure.

    April 29, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • n8263

      Why not start with the Q'uran?

      April 29, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • FSM

      Yeah, and the Big Bad Wolf talks to us in The Three Little Pigs, too.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  18. Elliott Carlin

    Ms. Zacharias shows very little intelligence or insight when it comes to what the Scriptures say about God.

    April 29, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • report_abuse

      or much else

      April 29, 2012 at 8:58 am |
  19. Meh

    Atheism = the truth

    April 29, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • Hitchens

      Atheism is the stupidest bull anyone could buy into.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • Argonaut

      Atheism isn't buying into the bull. If you don't believe in Hindi or Buddhism or Islam, then you are an Atheist too, excluding your own belief. You exclude them without a second thought. You're just more of a hypocrite.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • Danno

      A man who lives in the sky created a world of humans for the sole purpose of worshiping him? Yea that makes way more sense than science.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • bucricket

      so....believing in nothing is the truth?

      April 29, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Danno

      I believe in a lot of things. Fortunately they all have scientific evidence behind them.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  20. report_abuse

    What tripe. I wonder if she passed this artcle to anyone for review. Can you imagine any credible or caring soul endorsing it?

    April 29, 2012 at 8:56 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60
Advertisement
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.