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.

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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.

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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. cosmicsnoop

    How very cute, and delusional.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  2. stjdsj

    “The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.
    “To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of FORTY DAYS and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:1-3, written testimony by Luke, A.D. 62)

    April 29, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  3. David

    Why is this front page news? Why am I commenting on is?

    April 29, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • David

      Correction - why is this front page news and why am I commenting on this? Aaaaahhhhhh!

      April 29, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  4. scoobypoo

    Zeus just told me to tell you all that he is alive and well, and quite tired of being ignored.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • BethTX

      Heretic! If you don't worship Poseidon you're going to be sent to Chuck E Cheese for all eternity.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • a reasonable athiest

      More likely the Orca tank at Sea World...

      April 29, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  5. BethTX

    An invisible being is speaking to you? Lady, time to up your meds.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  6. Dan

    God doesn't speak to anyone, because God doesn't have a voice. God is not a personality. When people are hearing the voice of Inner Guidance this is the eternal part of the self, which is the part of each person that has never left God. Throughout the ages it has often been called the Knowing Mind, or Knowledge with a capital K. It is the force of the Holy Spirit that moves people to find purpose, meaning, and direction.

    To learn more about the Knowing Mind, visit newmessage.org

    April 29, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Kebos

      God doesn't exist.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • nope

      you're wrong

      April 29, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  7. carl

    You know NEWS....that's current events.
    If I want to read this stuff I can watch Entertainment Tonight.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  8. Yahweh.

    What does the lord's flatulence smell like? I bet it smells like frankincense and myrrh.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • bob

      No, more like fire and brimstone. He's a jealous, vain, vengeful deity don't forget.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  9. Shimon Cleopas

    1/9 By nature and to remain current, scientific truths should constantly undergo evaluations or retrials by evolving generations.

    2/9 A Jesus Christ that does not, will not and cannot command violent weather systems to calm down is an outdated Jesus Christ.

    3/9 A Jesus Christ that does not, will not and cannot reconcile divided Christians is an outdated Jesus Christ.

    4/9 A Jesus Christ that does not, will not and cannot wed two nations, two peoples and two religions together is an outdated Jesus Christ.

    5/9 A Jesus Christ that does not, will not and cannot obliterate the dajjal is an obsolete Jesus Christ

    6/9 A Jesus Christ that does not, will not and cannot rebuild the Jerusalem Temple in three days or three millennia is an obsolete Jesus Christ.

    7/9 A Jesus Christ that does not, will not and cannot resurrect Himself in this third day or third millennium is an obsolete Jesus Christ.

    8/9 A Jesus Christ that does not, will not and cannot prove Himself God is outdated Jesus Christ.

    9/9 A Jesus Christ that does not, will not and cannot command religious warriors to put their swords, including nuclear, back to their scabbards is obsolete.

    Change , indeed we can: Jesus Christ or Truth as He claimed Himself to be should undergo A FAIR SCIENTIFIC RETRIAL long overdue.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  10. yeap that's right

    My Faith: What does God sound like?

    Mr. Christopher Hitchen

    April 29, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • Hitchens

      Before or after his throat rotted out?

      April 29, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  11. Norma Joian

    The story of Jesus that you've heard is a farce. What really occurred is a Jewish couple named Joseph & Mary were rejected by the innkeeper when he realized that the sacrifice of the first born would bloody up his room. So, not wanting to lose favor with the King he told them they could do their tradition of bloody sacrifice of the first born in the stable. However, moments before the dagger was about to descend on the throat of the first born Jesus they happened to see the star in the east. Being ignorant of astronomy & science they thought it was a miracle & decided this would be a good excuse to spare their child. The three Magi that were sent by the King to arrest Mary & Joseph if they didn't follow Jewish protocol if they didn't sacrifice their first born agreed with them that this star in the east had to of been a miracle & that was what really started Christianity.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:21 am |
  12. JT

    Andrea Yates is now requesting to start attending church once again. Remember she was the fanatical delusional Christian woman who drowned her five children for she feared they were destined for hell. God was telling her to do all kinds of things.and she was just following orders. For those of you who claim to also hear god telling you to do things, beware for you are suffering from a mental illness.

    Mixing religion with mental illness is like throwing gasoline on a fire.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  13. scoobypoo

    hearing voices in your head is a sign of mental instability

    April 29, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • AGuest9

      Agreed. So is feeling the need to endlessly post "Prayer changes things". [see below]

      April 29, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • nope


      April 29, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  14. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 29, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Todd in DC

      Atheism is not healthy... You are such a troll. You say the same damn thing in different threads.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Prayer changes things

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things
      Two truths that need retelling

      April 29, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Weibert

      This totally explains why the dinosaurs are extinct. Thanks!

      April 30, 2012 at 7:27 am |
  15. BD

    Morgan Freeman and Lenard Nemoy, anyone whose played one of the later civilization games knows what I'm talking about.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  16. TownC

    God can send us messages in many ways. He can send us messages through the scriptures, through thoughts and impressions, or through other people. The fact is that he is a kind loving God who is interested in us personally is a wonderful aspect of our relationship with him.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • scoobypoo

      yeah, this "loving" god will banish you to eternal torture if you don't love him back; oh, that makes sense.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • JT

      How do you determine if thoughts and impressions are simply thoughts and impressions within your brain or are inserted by the creator of the universe?

      April 29, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • Name*Chedar

      "Kind and loving God" This is what is wrong with Christians. Read your Bible well and tell me how loving that God is. ??????

      April 29, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  17. gabe levally

    Is this crap really what makes it to the front page of CNN? We have alot more going on right now that we can wait to babble on about some friggin religion.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Kebos

      No, other crap makes it to the front pages of CNN.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • JT

      But it is very newsworthy to be alerted to and understand the mass delusion that is out there. These people are are large block of voters and make decisions that affect us all based on these delusions. Remember how many candidates say god told them to run?

      April 29, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • Michael M.

      Exactly what I was thinking. I guess they had to make up for their "Study Proves Critical Thinking Reduces Religious Tendencies" bit a few days ago by putting this junk on here.

      This isn't any type of news at all. This is a conversation over lemon tarts and sweet tea.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  18. Redford

    What does CNN sound like when reporting the news? A donkey braying.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  19. Hitchens

    2. American independance

    April 29, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • jamesT297

      Those occurrences were the result of prayer? Who knew. Wouldn't it have been better if the prayers to not permit slavery and create a free nation were answered before the slavery and despotism took root? You are one sorry and mentally ill puppy.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  20. Kebos

    I've been following this site and commenting for a long time. This article definitely ranks as one of the top five most ridiculous and juvenile articles of all time. Let's have a sequel: What Does Santa Claus Sound Like?

    April 29, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • easterbunny

      agreed. I was hoping for many more entertaining comments at the end of this article hahaha

      April 29, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • AGuest9

      And on this Blog, that's REALLY saying something!

      April 29, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • This is how

      How to bring up good christian and muslim children.

      1) Spa-nk your children to rob them of their spirit (much easier to spa-nk a child than to sit down and talk with them, it's easier on you. This also helps them identify with you and becoming a christian or muslim too.)

      2) Bring them to a church where they are reminded they are sinners ( reducing children follows the terrorist rule in brainwashing)

      3) have them join and hear people singing euphoric music. (This is the final step which creates a unity so they feel they belong.)

      In the end, you will have wonderful christian or muslim children, and if you do your job well, they will become racist and haters too.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:38 am |
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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.