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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. BurnNotice

    "It's all in your Mind."

    April 29, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Christopher

      Burn Notice,
      That's my favorite show. 🙂 You are correct it is all in our minds. But that's where divinity is to be found; in our hearts and in our minds.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • jamesT297

      Mike1:

      All one has to do is research for the existence of god. If one is not found, then there is none.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Lexagon

      "You are correct it is all in our minds. But that's where divinity is to be found; in our hearts and in our minds."

      So are delusions and hallucinations.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • Mike1

      jamesT297,

      What if one researches it and finds God? What is the next step?

      April 29, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  2. Cosmos42

    God sounds like complete silence, which coincidentally is what non-existent things sound like.

    April 29, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Mike1

      How does one determine that God does not exist?

      April 29, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • This is how

      The first step in logical thinking is to prove he exists. That has yet to be proven.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      God is supposed to be everywhere. Look in the palm of your hand. See God? No? Then he doesn't exist.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Mike1

      "This is how",
      I disagree that is the first step to logical thinking. The first step to logical thinking is to realize that you don't know and might not have the capability to determine it. If someone fails to prove that God exists, he could still exist. Your logic is faulty. I am merely asking why a strong claim to truth was made and have no obligation to prove anything. When you claim God does not exist, and have no good reason for concluding this, we call this jumping to conclusions. Jumping to conclusions is not logical.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  3. Welled

    Deal is Christians are just as ignorant as the rest of the earth. They think they can help themselves to anything. You people would make a wonderful ant farm. Ignorance is no excuse either.

    April 29, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • Christopher

      The deal is we're all in this together. We're all connected. The same.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  4. Jim

    James Earl Jones is white?

    April 29, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  5. patiat

    God sounds like Vin Scully.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  6. Christopher

    To me these voices can be very healthy ways in which we as human beings interpret the world around us. So long as our interpretations are healthy and focused on bettering ourselves this is a wonderful, glorious and holy thing. Sometimes mental voices can lead to extremism which is something a person should always be on the look out for; however, that is the case with any mental thought process.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  7. Reality

    HEAR YE ! HEAR YE ! HEAR YE ! said the gods of rational thinking:

    ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS

    The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen
    (References used are available upon request.)
    +++=====================+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    April 29, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Welled

      Rome sits on a volcanic field so what.

      April 29, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  8. Observer

    FACT: The average person who bought $10,578.24 in stock on George W. Bush's first day in office ended up with $8,281 on Bush's last day.

    FACT: The average person buying stock on President Obama's FIRST DAY in office is now 60% UP.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Reality

      Reliable references to support your Facts?

      April 29, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • Observer

      Dow Jones:

      George W Bush 01/20/01 10,578.24
      (last day) 01/19/09 8,281 (change: down 2,307 21.8 %)

      Today: 04/27/12 13,228 (change: UP 60%)

      April 29, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • Matt

      60 percent of the time 90 percent of people made up the stats they present. I don't disagree Bush's policies got us into a mess but so did O"BaaAA"ma for the sheep that follow him. Your boy Obama brought troops home from Iraq on Bush's timetable and still has them in Afghan and his drones dropped bombs on Libyan cities. He extended the patriot act and signed the NDAA into law expanding executive power. GW and Obama are pretty much the same guy in regards to foreign policy and big government.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • Observer

      Matt,

      So are you saying my statistics are a lie? YES or NO? Your comment was ignorant and implied something that was a lie.

      How Christian.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • Mike1

      The stock market is down compared to gold. The dollar has less value and unemployment and the debt are up.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • Awetmedic

      Reality, you could google the Dow Jones average or any other stock market yourself.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • Observer

      Mike1,

      The equivalent of 1/15th of our national debt was the cost of the optional war that Bush and the Republicans started for false reasons against a nation that had nothing to do with 9/11, not that Bush cared about bin Laden anyway.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • Matt

      I have pointed out how Obama is only carrying on GW's foreign policies which is true. Meanwhile democrats and republicans debate about unimportant domestic issues. It's time to bring our troops home from Afghan and speak out when the U.S. and NATO bomb countries for free market oil. It's no coincidence that a civil war broke out in Libya after Gadhafi stopped selling oil to the west and bid with China and Russia.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • Mike1

      Compared to the US dollar the stock market is up, But compared to gold it is down. The Dollar is worth less now than it was in 2009. Wait a few years and I will not need to explain this to you.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Matt

      Observer – Obama brought the troops home from Iraq the exact date GW proposed.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Observer

      Matt,

      Obama went after the people who caused 9/11 and killed bin Laden.

      Bush read "The Pet Goat" and didn't care about bin Laden.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      This has nothing to do with the subject of this article.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Mike1

      Observer,
      I agree Bush spent way too much money. Obama spent more.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  9. Lexagon

    "We all have had days when we feel like we’ve failed God."

    I haven't.

    Also, sweeping, patently flawed generalizations like this really put off people who may not agree with your worldview, but don't otherwise bear you any ill will until you give them no choice.

    Just saying.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Mike1

      What did God think when He read your comment?

      April 29, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • Lexagon

      "What did God think when He read your comment?"

      He's your imaginary friend, not mine, how would I know?

      April 29, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Mike1

      Lexagon, hypothetically, based on what you have heard about the Bible, what do you theorize he would think if he existed?

      April 29, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  10. Matt

    This article is redonkulous. CNN's theology is beyond weird. Comparing Spock to God and expecting people to view this as a serious take on God is funny.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Christopher

      But it's all in the way in which the individual interprets reality just like anything else. One person loves ice cream while another strongly dislikes it. It's the same with religious preference.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • Ancient Curse

      But no one is major life choices (including foreign and domestic policies) on ice cream. That's the difference.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  11. Welled

    There is no shame in being a man unless well your trying to screw Rockefellers daughter or something.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  12. Welled

    Religion takes everything of being a man away from you or attempts to.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • Matt

      Actually that's atheist communism.

      April 29, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  13. Jedi master

    God sounds like Chewbacca from Star Wars.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  14. What does god sound like?

    The correct answer is (c) Pee Wee Herman, and he almost always has that expression on his face.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  15. Nii

    GRAMPA
    Its high time that you should accept that we are grown up already when we are emotionally mature and religion provides the easiest path to achieve this.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Sue

      No, religion means never maturing.

      April 29, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • Sue

      The non-religious grow up and don't believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy.

      April 29, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Observer

      Nii,

      We ARE grown-up. That's why we don't believe in talking serpents and unicorns like you apparently do.

      April 29, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • n8263

      Believing in an invisible friend is not very mature.

      April 29, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • Ting

      In other words, it's the 21st already. One would think humans would have figured out by the 3rd, 4th, or 5th century that Jesus wasn't coming back. Here we are in 2012 and the "good" book still has people convinced that he's coming any minute now.

      April 29, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nii, explain how religion helps one 'achieve' maturity.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • Nii

      OBSERVER
      Maturity includes ability to grasp advanced concepts and to judge fairly.
      We dealt with this question a long way back. I didn't forget.z

      April 29, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
  16. james A.

    Simply clear your mind and just "listen" to your surroundings for a few seconds. There you have it. You have just heard God. What's more: Everybody is a prophet, because everybody receives revelations from God many thousands of times a day.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Sue

      So, on the streets of Syria, listen to the gunfire. In the slums of Pretoria and Calcutta, listen to the moans of the starving and sick children. That's your god too, or there just isn't one. For that and other reasons, I say there isn't a god, at least not an involved, loving one.

      April 29, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Nii

      Thats beautiful!

      April 29, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • Christopher

      James,
      That's how I think it really is. And it's beautiful! 🙂

      April 29, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • rochdoc

      Sue,
      May be it is an opportunity to do God's work like Mother Theresa did. Why don't you try that?

      April 29, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • Sue

      Mother Theresa was a very evil beotch who caused a lot of suffering in Africa, so what the hell are you using her as an example of? How to do evil and become famous for it? Sounds very Christian.

      See here
      http://www.fitz-claridge.com/Articles/MotherTeresa.html

      April 29, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • Sue

      Add her evil works in India too.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • God's Oldest Dreamer

      Sue,,,,,,,,,,,, ,.,,..,.,.,.,.,.,

      God is no one's fool! God is however far beyond mankind's understandings! Hell, the average "joe" is but a below average intellectual! The rich in this world are rich due their climbing upon the backs of the average joe! I tend to not pitty the rich when their day of earthly judgment comes upon the rich's children who will bear their parents vileness deeds done! My godly fundaments are beyond the revelries of Christian and governmentalcronyism!

      April 29, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  17. God's Oldest Dreamer

    God is but God and God was God long before mankind came to be and God will be around come mankind's finality! God just loves to watch 'em squirm whenever things don't go according to mankind's plans! There are far too many idiots on both sides of fence and way too many just on the fence with a certain amount upon the fence posts just sitting there with grins on their faces! To be a person of godliness today, it takes more then hearing of God's voice to become of the chosen to lead a flock of niiny wieners to scared of where the social herds are coming from and going towards! Your Boss is still on the cross! Why did I say this when I believe in God and Jesus? I don't run a damn thing! I am a ward of the nation that I love and care about deeply! Between the up and coming lowered generations wanting to no longer be divided anymore should all seek unification and take over the authority channels of all social lattices of fenced in pragmatists decore!

    April 29, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Welled

      Please don't make Hebrews out to be wild eyed manics that are stupid enough to crucify Gods only Son. If that were true of course. I can tell you they are quite rational for the most part. For a people that you think went thru 7 plauges and the wiping out of an entire generation. If that were true. Would it make sense to tangle with someone that could do that. Hebrews aren't crazy for the most part. I'm a semite not a Hebrew. Of course you don't know we exsist. I could call you an anti-semite and you would fall apart. Stick to gardening or something.

      April 29, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • God's Oldest Dreamer

      Welled,,,,,,,,,,,, ,.,.,.,.,.,.,

      Hebrews,,,, "wild eyed manics"? God's only Son? Hebrew rationale? I think people went thru 7 plagues? Wiped clean a generation? Semitism and not a Hebrew? Calling me an "anti-semite? Falling apart I would?

      First off, Welled< I never mentioned Hebrew nor am I inclined to call Hebrews wildeyed manics! The rest of your post is just plain nothingness for me to be the least bit concerned about!

      April 29, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  18. Chris Johnson

    While I found this article really silly, when I was a kid, the voice I imagined for God was Lorne Greene/Commander Adama.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  19. d

    "We can't just turn our backs and walk out of Afghanistan"

    lmao, listen to yourself...you're a 2008 republican candidate!

    The stock market was 'up FOR 90%' of Bush's term, not up 90%. That's a fact not an opinion.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Observer

      d,

      Yes. People who bought the stocks when the market was up, lost their shirts on the average. The Bush years featured the biggest monetary losses in the history of the stock market.

      April 29, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  20. Grampa

    It's way past time for the human race to grow up and embrace reality.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
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