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. .

    I feel bad for nonbelievers :/ especially for their children being brainwashed by their parents devil and evil lifestyle

    April 29, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • martog

      Yea, religion isn't brain washing.....

      April 29, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      You have jello for a brain

      April 29, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Epinoia

      Atheists simply believe in one less god than you do. Do you believe in Zeus? Apollo? Poseidon? Etc., Etc., etc.?

      You have nothing which demonstrably PROVES that there is a god out there. And furthermore, you have nothing that demonstrably PROVES that the god that's out there is the one that you believe in. That's why it is called "belief in god", rather than "knowledge of god". I *KNOW* that 2+2=4. I don't *BELIEVE* that 2+2=4.

      April 29, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • GAW

      @ Voice of Reason Get out and take a walk and don't waste your life by responding to silly posts and acting like a jerk

      April 29, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      @GAW says:
      "@ Voice of Reason Get out and take a walk and don't waste your life by responding to silly posts and acting like a jerk"

      Please do enlighten me on thy holy information you have to share here.

      April 29, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • a reasonable athiest

      but 2+2=5*

      *for large values of 2

      April 29, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  2. Frank T. Mudd

    Humans at this point in our evolution are the equivalent of 3-4 year old babies. You want to know about gods? Come back and ask again in 126,458 years and lets try this again. (stupid people 🙂

    April 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • GAW

      Not that I entirely disagree with you I have to admit you sound a bit holier than thou there.

      April 29, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  3. Yeah

    Seriously atheists have no life this holy Sunday – day of rest.
    Go to church, pray and you live like a king/queen!

    April 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • martog

      Wow, you're obviously not in church....Pot calling the kettle black me thinks....

      April 29, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  4. Corpus Christi, TX (Body of Christ, TX)

    Atheists needs to shut up and should NOT be allowed to open their mouth at all. They should obey our Christian law or LEAVE! Sick and tired of listening to their whining

    April 29, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Wow

      Easy there. I'm a Christian myself but everyone has a right to express themselves. As cliche as it sounds, that's pretty much the opposite of how Jesus might've responded.

      April 29, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Surfeit

      If we didn't have freedom of speech, neither would you.

      April 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • bizziel

      Very Christian of you. Wonder what your Jesus would think of that comment,(if he ever existed). That's the issue with so many of you. Preach one thing but act a different way. Lame.

      April 29, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • GAW

      Unless you are a troll you sound like an extremest. Don't stoop down to the levels of extremists whether they be believer or unbeliever.

      April 29, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Epinoia

      "You can do it your own way, if it's done just how I say."
      -Metallica – Eye Of The Beholder

      April 29, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • sam stone

      "individuality is a great thing. as long as we all do it together" Frank Burns M.A.S.H.

      April 29, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • a reasonable athiest

      Most of our laws predate christian mythology. Of course, the United States is relatively new, but just about all of our basic laws existed in previous civilizations long before the common era. Also, if you study earlier mythologies, you will find that christian myths borrow liberally from them.

      So, if these laws existed prior to christianity, they cannot be "christian laws." Further, since christian traditions are largely an assemblage of traditions from earlier mythologies, it is doubtful that any tradition perceived as christian is even original.

      April 29, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • **

      @a reasonable athiest

      heads-up for future postings - it's "atheist"

      April 29, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  5. Frank T. Mudd

    could there be anything more selfish than Christianity? No. Just pathetic, get off your moron brain and go and do some good in the world instead of spouting nonsense drivel

    April 29, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • LOL

      Jews and Muslims..... Go to Israel and any Islamic countries

      April 29, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  6. ormaybeitsjust

    All the voices are male. Do you think God has big old hairy balls too?... "woman, why'd you eat that apple?" I like to hope if there was a God IT would transcend gender and it's voice would be unlike any other.... as opposed to this person's dreams of a white woman bashing man.

    April 29, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  7. Epinoia

    Exactly! What people often fail to consider is that it is impossible to REcognize the voice of God. Why? Simple. In order to RE+cognize the voice of anyone, you'd have to have FIRST had the chance to correctly associate that voice with the person. So, for example, if I were to hear the voice of my mother all my life, and then she calls me on the phone, I can immediately REcognize her voice. I have heard it all my life, and KNOW that it is her voice. People who hear the 'voice of God' cannot claim to have had any sort of baseline by which to then remember and recognize the voice later. That might be the voice of Satan! It could (and almost certainly IS) just 'hearing voices', and then the person simply ASSUMES that voice to be the voice of God. It's laughable! But, at the same time, quite possibly dangerous. We shouldn't give any sort of social encouragement to these people. We should NEVER tell them that "Yes, you probably were hearing the voice of God!" . They might well hear that voice tell them to take their child up to a mountain top and sacrifice him to God. And then how would you feel for encouraging them?

    April 29, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  8. Nitrogen

    Someone please put this woman in an asylum before she hurts herself.

    April 29, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Nitrogen? With a story like this, why not choose Lithium. 😉

      April 29, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  9. Mark

    Fortunately if you are hearing voices in your head they have medication and therapy that can help you with that.

    April 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  10. Byrd

    Voltaire once said that if god didn't exist it would be necessary to create him. So if you're listening to someone claiming to be god, in all likelihood you're listening to the old wrathful version – and look what an unmitigated mess he made of things.

    Stay tuned for further developments.

    April 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  11. Skeptical

    I had eaten some partly spoiled food. that night I had a dream and GOD spoke to me. I guess that makes me a prophet too!!

    April 29, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  12. Wow

    I consider myself a Christian and have believed in Christ my entire life, but can say I've never heard God's voice speaking to me. This sounds to me like a speaking in tongues thing, both kind of questionable.

    April 29, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  13. GAW

    Ahh! The CNN Belief Blog....giving believers and unbelievers alike the ability to act like jerks.

    April 29, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      Go away you self-righteous idiot!

      April 29, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Rob in San Diego

      CNN has gotten ridiculous. If you want real new, we need to go the BBC or Russia Today.

      April 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • GAW

      What's wrong? I'm not aloud to make a valid observation or question people's approaches? You sound like one of those Fundy preachers who doesn't want to be questioned.

      April 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      "Ahh! The CNN Belief Blog....giving believers and unbelievers alike the ability to act like jerks."

      Can't you see the essence of your statement is in itself the mere thing you are demeaning? You are an idiot!

      April 29, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • GAW

      Ok just to make your spoiled little self happy I will insert the word 'many' in front of believers and unbelievers. btw Calling me and idiot has proven my point.

      April 29, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      What is your point anyway?

      April 29, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  14. Rainer Braendlein

    The problem of Christianity is indeed that it comes out of world, which is strange for us: The Kingdom of God.

    In John 3 Jesus says that we need to get born by Water and Spirit (rebirth or sacramental baptism), in order to become able to realize God's Kingdom.

    Baptism is like a gateway. If you want to watch a beautiful castle from inside, you have to enter it through the gateway, otherwise you will never know, how it looks inside.

    The Bible describes us a castle from inside, but if we want really get to know the caste from inside, we need to get born by Water and Spirit.

    There is a discrepancy between really watching a castle and watching the guidebook.

    April 29, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • DesertTripper

      A few hundred mics of LSD will grant you the same vision...

      April 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • sam stone

      Desert: And when you come down, you will realize it was all just a drug. Rainy here thinks it is real.

      April 29, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  15. Rob in San Diego

    We fight religious extremist in foreign countries while doing nothing about here in the US....and now CNN caters to them.

    April 29, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  16. Jonboy

    Lady...you crazy.

    April 29, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  17. Voice of Reason

    I think natural selection has allowed religion to evolve and survive to strengthen the logic and reason gene.

    April 29, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  18. Jessica/NJ

    Christians are being persecuted in America and atheists are trying to take away our freedom and rights 🙁

    April 29, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      Sorry kiddo, you have that one backwards!

      April 29, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Wow

      Voice, I don't think she does. The tendency in public compared to decades ago is to take God out of the equation. The push is to take God out of all public places and forums, that's clearly the trend in the US.

      April 29, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Epinoia

      You can't honestly believe that. How many Presidents have been elected who were openly atheists? If atheists had the grip on the country as you say, then you'd expect that it would be difficult if not impossible to get elected as an openly atheist. Yet the reverse is true.

      April 29, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      @Wow says:
      "Voice, I don't think she does. The tendency in public compared to decades ago is to take God out of the equation. The push is to take God out of all public places and forums, that's clearly the trend in the US."

      Did you ever hear of the 1st amendment, moron? The Establishment Clause? That is what our country was founded on. Educate yourselves!

      April 29, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • abcontador

      Christians have earned this backlash by continually trying to force everyone into their belief system. I for one, will do anything I can to fight them.

      April 29, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • abcontador

      This country was not founded on religion or god - one of the biggest things the founders were fighting against is religious oppresion - get your facts straight

      April 29, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Wow

      Voice, why are you so fired up buddy? I'm trying to have a discussion, not fight you over something. I agree that our country was founded that way, but the point I was making was where our country was headed...the anti-Christian trend. Teaching intelligent design in schools is being phased out, putting your hand on the Bible in courts is being moved away from, soon in God we Trust will be off coins I would imagine. Again, not trying to fight just saying I don't see too many instances of more God talk in public places, as it were.

      April 29, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • jma58

      Christians are trying to make this country like Iran. Religion is just another form of governing people and when applied to people who do not agree, it becomes oppresive.

      April 29, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Voice of Reason


      It's about time the trend changes. People will not stand for religious intolerance any longer. God has no place in our public schools, courts, currency, etc.. You can have your churches and your private schools but keep it there. BUT pay taxes like everyone else does!

      April 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Epinoia

      "In God We Trust" has only been on our money for 56 years. It was done primarily as a way to differentiate us from the Soviet Union. It hasn't been on the money for much of our history at all - only about 20-25% of the time the country has existed.

      April 29, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • jamesT297

      You say that like it is a bad thing.

      April 29, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • God

      Yea it must suck to not be able to MURDER gays anymore or HANG blacks or MOLEST children legally, or take BASEBALL BATS to the sides of atheists heads. what a world we live in.

      April 29, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Wow

      Well I guess if it turned out that God created the earth and all of us then he would, in fact, belong everywhere.

      April 29, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • sam stone

      what rights are atheists taking away from you?

      April 29, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  19. There never was a god

    for there never has been a voice, i made one up sometimes to fulfill the void, and loneliness that is the human condition. honestly though ive never seen any proof and because of that i have no belief in that which i can not see or has not establish empirical evidence. if jesus came down today or had a personal conversation with me then id line right up but he hasnt, so ill keep on being an athiest.

    April 29, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  20. Freethinker Seeking Reason

    @ "In God We Trust"
    Wow, worst/best post yet from this psycho. As an atheist, I find this drivel so detached from reality that the author may as well be from some horrid alternate universe. Many of the smartest people, alive and dead, are/were atheists because it is the obvious truth. As already noted, a truly scary post. Please seek professional psychiatric help before you hurt someone.

    As for the original CNN author, sorry, but that wasn't metaphorical enough to digest, and I flatly reject your attempts to co-opt some of our favorite fictional characters such as Spock or Yoda in the name of your delusional religion. You seem to have an active imagination, but realize there is no omnipotent being having a conversation with you.

    April 29, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
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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.