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.

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Filed under: Movies

soundoff (3,288 Responses)
  1. Voice of Reason

    This is a late April Fool's joke, right? If it isn't, seriously folks, someone mentioned the "Baker Act" and if anyone is a candidate for being placed under observation for 48 hours it is this chick. I cannot imagine what she was thinking when she hit the "send" button? On top of it she has other published works with engaging ti_tles that I have noted never to read one word of them.

    April 29, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  2. Ewing

    Maybe, seeing s Shrink would be a wise choice...........

    April 29, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  3. Dan

    My imaginary friend sends me text messages.

    April 29, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • tkessler45

      ...turns out they're nigerian scam artists trying to steal your money.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  4. tkessler45

    The lady's wrong about Yoda...he's not god to star wars fans. "The Force" is...Yoda is like Mohammed to muslims.

    April 29, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  5. Nealb4

    Human beings are so arrogant and disrespectful. There are as many gods as there are cultures on earth and yet each believes they are right. Too steadfast to admit they conjured up this god in their own image to satisfy the question, "where am I from?"

    Silly article on a Sunday morning.

    April 29, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  6. LCS

    Trivialize much?

    April 29, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  7. Dan

    The voices in my head are telling me to stop coming to this website.

    April 29, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Religion

      If you hear voices in your head you may have a mental condition. I would recommend Ms. Spears keep mental health professionals immediately.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  8. David in Cincinnati

    God must work in mysterious ways. Otherwise, in His omnipotence, surely He would use ordinary means to communicate with me.

    Dear personal God, speak so that not only I hear Garrison's voice. Write me a real letter. I will answer.

    April 29, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  9. Tully

    I can't speak for anybody else, but for me, God responds to my Prayers and questions by way of an answer I "feel", rather than actually "Hear" words. A feeling of reassurance tells me which path God wants me to take. The reason I CONTINUE to ask for His Guidance is because whenever I follow His lead, the outcome is ALWAYS good. Whenever I have not, I have suffered and learned. I don't claim to understand WHY God does or doesn't do what WE ask of Him or from Him. I can only say that God has never, EVER, led me wrong. The ONLY times I have suffered hard times in my life, are those I have encountered as a result of MY choices alone. Every time I have stopped, thought and Prayed before making a tuff choice in my Life, God has pointed me in the right direction. If you "non-believers" could somehow see my Life in particular, all 57 years of it, you'd see the incredible lows of my own doing, the point I truly gave up on life, my begging God, in desperation for help, His Divine intervention, my years of hard work and Prayer, and finally, this Wonderful Life He has Blessed my Family and self with, You could find the Peace that can ONLY comes when you ASK. The ONLY things one needs : ASK, from your Heart (Pray), Wait for an answer, (an answer WILL come) be Brave enough to FOLLOW His answer, and Give Thanks by telling others of His Works in your Life. It Truly IS as simple as that. You don't need a Bible or a degree in Theology.
    I ask my Loving God to help YOU this very moment, and for a Wonderful New Beginning for all of us in need. Amen.

    April 29, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • jamesT297

      Does it FEEL to you like god is helping me at this moment?

      April 29, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • This is how

      praying to a volcano achieves the same.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • tkessler45

      Whew...you properly capitalized all the god references in there...good work, my child.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      Shove it!

      April 29, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Religion

      Did God teach you to Use mixed Caps when you Write Sentences too? Why do all the nutjobs use mixed caps when writing?

      April 29, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  10. Eon

    Ya know, they lock people up for hearing voices that aren't real

    April 29, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  11. Dana

    Can we please get this religious "news" off the front page of CNN?

    April 29, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • lolzz

      You'd better make sure Romney doesn't get elected President – – or you'll be seeing this crap every day – and it'll be this diatribe that will be GOVERNING the everyday workings of the USA! Can you imagine national security being at the hands of nutjobs like this? Like... mentally ill individuals like this – have their finger on big red button ™ ... in charge of the nuclear codes?

      April 29, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • hmm

      Amen! Woman is mentally ill!

      April 29, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  12. contraryjim

    It's all in your head – believe or not. Just don't attempt to force others to your beliefs

    April 29, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  13. thegadfly

    I think the important point to make is that the voices are all in your heads. Listen to them, if you must, but don't expect them to be omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, or in any way divine. They are in fact, quite capable of evil, or at very least, seriously bad advice.

    April 29, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  14. jamesT297

    Did I fall asleep and when I awoke find myself on the FoxNews site?

    April 29, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • tkessler45

      The lordeth beith withith youith on this sudayth......aaaaaaaaa(wo)men....

      April 29, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  15. reportinghasgonetohell

    Why is this drivel top story "news".

    April 29, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  16. Dave

    This is the front page article?? This is idiotic. It's bad enough (and so arrogant) that people claim that God speaks to them. Worse yet, someone claims that God sounds like Yoda. Yes, the supreme being sounds like a Star Wars character...

    When God speaks to me, he sounds like Porky Pig with an Irish accent and a slight lisp.

    April 29, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • AGuest9

      James Earl Jones (Darth Vader) – TWO Star Wars characters!

      April 29, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Dave

      Wait...God just contacted me again...he sounds like Chewbacca! I hate it when he speaks Wookie. Can't understand a dang thing he is saying.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  17. tkessler45

    I love my imaginary friends as well, but the difference here is I know they're imaginary.

    April 29, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  18. joel palmer

    CNN needs to stop putting this crap up; it is about the equivalent of giving support for the flat earth theory and as meaningful

    April 29, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  19. stjdsj

    “The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good.
    The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.
    They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.
    Do all the workers of wickedness not know, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon the Lord?
    There they are in great dread, for God is with the righteous generation.” (Psalm 14:1-5)

    April 29, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • joel palmer

      umm.... NOPE

      April 29, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • Dan

      It's always amusing when people quote this nonsense as if it really happened.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • tkessler45

      Quoting the bible just confirms you have no mind to think for yourself.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • Dana

      Shouldn't you be in church right now giving 10% of your income to the child molesters?

      April 29, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • This is how

      hey Dana.. No wonder they dress up kids to bring them to church.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • Eon

      "Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker" Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory...

      See I can quote non-sense too 🙂

      April 29, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • a reasonable athiest

      Where's the causal relationship? All I see is semi-coherent conjecture in that excerpt.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • hmm

      Quoting a book of your faith to PROVE your faith is silly.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  20. Dana

    Another brain-washed religious fool.

    April 29, 2012 at 10:04 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.