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. Bok Choy

    CNN – get rid of these Belief Articles. This is not news. This is filler I expect to find on 2nd or 3rd tier internet sites.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • This is how

      it is silly god stuff. you'd think these christians and muslims would figure it out one day. Then again, intelligence is hereditary. No wonder many chistians don't believe in evolution.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • PulTab

      There does seem to be a strong correlation between lack of education and belief in various deities.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  2. scott

    Wow how Cnn promotes gays and makes fun of God . Not even cool.. If you can not naturally have a baby with your partner it is just wrong period. Religous beliefs or not ! People can knock God and the bible but it shows the type of person you are if your knocking something that helps make you a better person and have morals..

    April 29, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • This is how

      " If you can not naturally have a baby with your partner it is just wrong period." <– narrow mindedness. Many couple are incapable of having children.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • PulTab

      I am a good and moral person without the help of any imaginary gods.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • AGuest9

      "If you can not naturally have a baby with your partner it is just wrong period."

      That would be hilarious if it wasn't apparent that you are serious, and really believe such ignorance.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • AGuest9

      (Obviously, that people believe in such things, not that some people can't conceive naturally.)

      April 29, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  3. xMoonWitchx

    This is plain and simple, mental illness on so many levels; narcissism, primarily, but you can throw in field disturbances and acute cognitive dissonance as well. This can certainly be diagnosed by most psychologists.

    Ted Kazinsky had to extort the New York Times under the threat of additional mail bombings to get his manifesto published.

    My question is, who did Karen threaten to have her manifesto published on the front page of CNN?

    The longer we continue to enable and condone this delusional behavior, the longer humanity is going to have to suffer the consequences of delusion; slow to science, slow to discover, slow to progress.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • PulTab

      Well said.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  4. booger

    I don't believe in any religion or any gods. What God would create religion? Religion has cost us countless lives and created numerous wars for centuries. What God would want that? It's not just Christianity it's all religions. Believing in something that doesn't exist is delusional. Religion was created by early man to answer the questions he didn't understand like why does the earth shake? Why do stars fall from the sky? So what does God's really sound like? Well if you really listen close enough you'll soon figure out it sounds just like your own voice because Gods do not exist.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • scott

      Your name says it all. And if you knew anything their is only one God and man is who chose to lead to these murdering ways. If you think we were just made out of the air now you have problems...Which is obvious Mr Booger

      April 29, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • PulTab

      And if you knew anything scott, you would know how to spell "there", and be able put together a coherent sentence.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • booger

      I never said we were created from air Scott? I certainly don't believe some great power created us from dust then used a man's rib to create a woman. Why wouldn't God stop these murdering ways you speak about Scott? Why would God send Moses to help free the Jewish people from being enslaved by Egypt then never show up to help at the holocast? Hmm did anyone hear Gods voice when innocent Jewish people were being shoved into ovens?

      April 29, 2012 at 10:01 am |
  5. JerseyJeff


    This is not the standard people expect from the same news source that so brilliantly covered the Falklands War or has had a history of being moderate and a credible news source.

    Stop trying to be FOX and MSNBC, you can and should do better.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Metalman

      Sorry, way too late for that.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • works4me

      Right on...

      April 29, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • JT

      CNN's main purpose anymore is to create racial incidents where there are none by being dishonest with and manipulating facts and inciting black people to violence.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  6. benb

    So, this is an article about dropping acid and hallucinating about mythological beings. It should be labeled as such. When is one person's musings on fairy tales "news"?

    April 29, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • larvadog

      It's not news, it's the Belief Blog. Perhaps you didn't see that at the top of the page.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:46 am |
  7. stjdsj

    “Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had RAISED FROM THE DEAD.” (John 12:1, written eyewitness testimony by John that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead)

    April 29, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • Josef Bleaux

      Written thousands of years ago by a member of a primitive society. Then translated and re-translated for centuries. It's just ancient mythology, nothing more.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  8. extinct_republican_party

    anyone who claims God gets "mad" and other human emotions needs to assess their mental health. The source of such voices is evident and separate from Divine Inspiration

    April 29, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • AGuest9

      Actually, they aren't separate. They are both signs of varying degrees of mental illness.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  9. works4me

    What if God was one of us?
    Just a slob like one of us..
    Just a stranger on a bus,
    trying to make his way home.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • Josef Bleaux

      What if people suddenly grew a brain and stopped believing in fairy tales.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • works4me

      @josef... Alanis Morissette song. "What if God was one of us"

      April 29, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • AGuest9

      Ah, yes, that great philosopher, Alanis Morissette. How can we rule out her great many papers?

      April 29, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  10. PulTab

    Honey badger don't care about hearing voices in his head!

    April 29, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  11. Samson

    I refuse to act as a servant to a God that may or may not exist. I'll lead my life the best way I can and if a God should exist I'm sure they'll be able to judge you accordingly when the time comes. The bottom line is, you don't religion to lead a morale life and if a God exists I'm sure they'd agree.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  12. Mark Silvers

    This author is mental. First, who believes in a father in the sky, benevolently looking down from his chair. In the background, the chorus of heaven, a din of profound noise. A God so self centered that he requires everlasting prayers and harp music to quell his (or her) fantastic ego. Not me.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  13. nillerz

    I read this and all I can think is "Shucks, isn't it obvious to you all that god's not really talking to you, and that you're just imagining it?"

    That's why he sounds like Spock.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  14. Joe Christianson

    God sometimes speaks in George Carlins voice on YouTube.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  15. Reason & Logic

    I'm not an atheist, I was raised Catholic and believe in my religion but any Christian who openly professes their faith while condemning others who are of a different faith or of no faith at all, are blaspheming the true teachings of Christ. I also am turned off by this author's article. Non-theologians who write about God always come across as self-righteous.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • nillerz

      You say that you know Christs *true* teachings, then condemn someone for writing on the subject without being self-righteous.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • jamesT297

      Did you actually write for the whole world to see that "... non theologians writing about god always comes of as self-righteous"?

      April 29, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  16. 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 9:39 am |
  17. Reader X

    CNN, I implore you! Stop putting these "Belief Blog" religious wacko ramblings as FRONT PAGE NEWS! Seriously, guys, there's so much else in the world that ACTUALLY matters yet this is what consistently makes it to the front page? Come on, I'm starting to lose my own "faith" in you as a legitimate news source.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • Shmitty

      Yew ain't no thinker. You'm be a dimmer switch with eyeballs.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:42 am |
  18. jamesT297


    I stumble on to FOXNEWS by mistake?

    April 29, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • AGuest9

      It's starting to appear that way. Maybe the wheels are finally coming off the bus.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  19. Caron

    If you hear voices? Seek help.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:39 am |
  20. Shmitty

    That God fella, see, he don't sound like anything but the sort of person who no sane person would want to listen to.
    So it doesn't matter what any "voice" sounds like a-tall.

    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.