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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. MalcolmXcrement

    Didn't Archie Bunker say that He sounded like Arthur Godfrey??

    April 29, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • sam stone

      how about john cameron swayze?

      April 30, 2012 at 4:35 am |
  2. post

    I like the speculative picture

    April 29, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • Flim Flam Sauce

      keep your speculum to yourself please.

      April 29, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  3. Flim Flam Sauce

    Mel Gibson. He sounds like Mel Gibson.

    April 29, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • Lord Humungus

      Drunk or sober?

      April 29, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Flim Flam Sauce

      Drunk as all hell. And blaming the Jews for everything that's wrong with the world.

      April 29, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
  4. Mr. Wizard

    Based on his behavior, God must sound exactly like Adolf Hitler.

    April 29, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • Flim Flam Sauce

      Or Mel Gibson.

      April 29, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • MalcolmXcrement

      Pigs...

      April 29, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • Lord Humungus

      God sounds like pigs to you Malcolm. Yeah, that works for me. Go with it.

      April 29, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Flim Flam Sauce

      LOL Humungous. 🙂

      MalcolmX, do you mean pigs like Wilbur? Like "some pig?" Or Babe the Gallant Pig?

      April 29, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  5. Flim Flam Sauce

    Last week, I heard the Lord tell me to marry the ret arded girl at the Church Youth Group. Too bad he forgot to tell me about restraining orders and Megan's Law, as well.

    April 29, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  6. Flim Flam Sauce

    I know that I for one, woke up yesterday, saw the moon move across the sky backwards, in top-hat and a cane, soft-shoeing it to "Hello Ma Baby" and I knew. Yep, I said, that's you God. 100%.

    April 29, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
  7. OrangeW3dge

    God sounds like a quasar.

    April 29, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Mr. Wizard

      God sounds like a prefect vacuum.

      And I don't mean a vacuum cleaner.

      April 29, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • OrangeW3dge

      no wiz, that's only the ones listening that are in a vacuum

      April 29, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
  8. James

    Who knows if God has a set 'voice'. Most likely different to each if we actually hear it.

    April 29, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Brown

      It's YOU! It's you mistaking your own internal dialogue for being God talking to you.

      April 29, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • sybaris

      A god wouldn't need a voice. If your god is omnipotent it would just introduce the thought into your head unless it was a narcissistic god and want to make sure you knew where the guidance was coming from. Now the god of the christian bible, that is one bloodthirsty self-absorbed mofo right there!

      April 29, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  9. LOL Religion

    I you talk to god it's called prayer, if god talks to you it's called schizophrenia.

    April 29, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • God's Oldest Dreamer

      LOL Religion,,,,,,,,,,,, ,.,.,.,.,.,.,,.,...,.,,

      GOD is no God nor even a god! Understand these simply put words and you will know of a plainly put Truth!

      April 29, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  10. charles

    That's easy. God sound exactly like the late John Facenda. Anyone tuned in knows to what I am referring.

    April 29, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • OrangeW3dge

      ...with a German accent

      April 29, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 29, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • xzanthius

      You are right! Children are born with a religion. It is called Animism and is based upon the belief that life and consciousness exist everywhere and in everything. That is the natural religion of humanity.

      April 29, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • sybaris

      why are amputees left out though?

      April 29, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  12. mike

    Nothing, imaginary creatures don't talk.

    April 29, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • OrangeW3dge

      Mikey Mouse has been talking since the 30's, and he's in technicolor too !!

      April 29, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  13. Flim Flam Sauce

    Good chance that God has Cartman's voice.

    Imagine him screaming: "Respect my authoritah!!"

    April 29, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
  14. JESUS

    TO ME USUALLY GOD SPEAKS THROUGH NATURE, BECAUSE WHEN GOD SPEAKS TO YOU IT MEANS THAT THERE IS A VERY IMPORTANT THING TO TELL YOU, SO ALSO THE DEVIL LIKES TO SAY THAT IS JESUS, SO HOW I FOUND OUT WHO IS WHO IS BECASUE GOD GIVES NATURE SIGN FOR EXAMPLE, THERE IS A WIND STORM AND JESUS SAYS TO YOU, I AM GOING TO STOP THE WIND IN 5 MINUTES SO YOU KNOW THAT I AM JESUS, THE DEVIL IS VERY DECEIVING AND IT TAKES TIME TO DISCERN GOD MESSAGES, BUT IS VERY WORTHED THE TASK OF DISCERNING, JESUS TOLD ME THAT ANGELS IN HEAVEN NEED TO DO THIS ALL THE TIME. GOOD LUCK.

    April 29, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • sybaris

      Wow, just wow.

      April 29, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • Flim Flam Sauce

      The last time that happened to me, the wind stopped after 6 minutes. I knew for certain it was not the voice of God.

      April 29, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Flim Flam Sauce

      Even the angels in heaven need to do this all the time?

      Sorry, but having a hard time visualizing that. So the communications system in heaven must be like that in North Korea. Giant speakers set up all over the place: "This is the voice of Kim-Jong Il, your great and devoted leader. Why is evewyone so f88king stupid?" No wonder it's so tough to tell the two apart.

      April 29, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • Ting

      A little Haldol should help clear that up for you.

      April 29, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • rochdoc

      Just an attempt to mock.

      April 29, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • Flim Flam Sauce

      Haldol will absolutely do the trick. Please consult a psychiatrist as to whether you have a DSM diagnoses of 297.3 or
      298.9.

      April 29, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  15. osarusan

    If, at any time, you hear the audible voice of god telling you what to do, put down your pen, shut off your PC, and go straight to the nearest hospital. Hearing voices is not a sign that you are blessed or loved or somehow specially connected. It means you are very very sick.

    April 29, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • Hobbling Bob Dobson

      Agreed, but I use a keyboard with my computer. My pen really marks up the screen, and it just does not seem to work that well.

      April 29, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • JESUS

      READ ABOUT NSA SYSTEMS, YOU DONT NEED TO BE CRAZY TO HEAR VOICES IN YOUR HEAD, IN USA THIS SYSTEM IS USED BY THE ARMY, BY THE WA GOD ALSO CAN SPEAK TO YOU, TO ME IT HAPPENED AFTER I WENT THROUGH A NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE, JESUS TOLD ME THAT I AM RESURRECTED SINCE THEN I RECEIVED PROPHETIC MESSAGES FROM GOD THAT HE CONFIRMS WITH THE WEATHER. HE HAS STOP WINDS LIKE JESUS IN THE BIBLE, HE HAS MOVE THE MOON, THE SUN, HE HAS MAKE ANINMALS LIKE BIRDS AND BUTTERFLIES TO FOLLOW ME AND MANY MORE THINGS, I BELEIVE THAT I AM A RESURRETED PERSON, NEVER HAD THIS EXPERIENCE PRIOR TO GOING TO DEATH EXPERIENCE, SO DONT KNOW IF YOU CAN HEAR HIM PRIOR OF GOING TROUGH YOUR PERSONAL JUDGEMNT, GOOD LUCK, THERE IS SO MUCH FOR YOU STILL TO KNOW BEFORE DRAWING OPINIONS.

      April 29, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • Flim Flam Sauce

      @JESUS: please ask God if he can correct your spelling and teach you how not to type in ALL CAPS. Amen.

      April 29, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • Post Left Anarchist

      All caps means screaming, which is totally appropriate considering the content.

      April 29, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • Flim Flam Sauce

      "HE HAS MOVE THE MOON, THE SUN"...?

      huh? then if they be the case, take the time and date to your local meteorological station, confirm, and you have proven God's existence beyond the shadow of a doubt...

      If they don't have either occurrence on record...time to try Haldol.

      BTW, do you "has" cheezeburger?

      April 29, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  16. Please allow me to introduce myself . . .

    God is the devil. No real god would demand you obey absolutely or he will torture you forever. No real god would want to torture people forever for anything – that isn't even reasonable in the human world. We don't torture people forever, and certainly not for something so small as not obeying.

    No real god would hide himself from part of the world, ensuring eternal torture for them. No real god would give the greatest rewards to a horrific criminal who said he would obey, but torture eternally the best, most giving person who did not obey.

    No real god would allow the suffering and misery of the world to go on. No real god would let children be born into abusive homes, and then answer the greedy, self-absorbed prayers of his sycophant followers.

    No real god would do those things . . . but the devil would.

    If there is a supernatural being acting as most religions say, then that being is evil, and not worthy of worship.

    April 29, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • I am God

      Many religious people say it is because God gave you free will, but the issue I see with that is if God gave us free will then I can be an Atheist and not go to hell. Why in the world are religious people attacking me for what I believe in and what free will God gave me?

      April 29, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • Please allow me to introduce myself . . .

      You cannot have free will if God already knows everything that will happen, as the Bible says he does. You can only have the illusion of it. Oddly enough, that means you must act a certain way for God's plan to occur, so you had to be progrqammed to do it. Which means that you are not responsible for your actions – God is.

      And then again, he isn't. If God already knows everything that will ever happen, then he himself cannot change anything either. He is trapped in the same determinism we all are, and is thus not omnipotent.

      And why would God even bother if he already knows what will happen from what he started? Why would he possibly be mad or happy or anything when something happens – he knew about that millions of years ago. The universe and all of time would be totally pointless to him, an incredibly long bore that he cannot change, like watching reruns for the rest of your life.

      God is totally illogical, and thus cannot be.

      April 29, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • Bruce Almighty

      Well said. Guess who killed more people in the Bible?

      God – 2.5million to 25 million
      Satan – 10 to 60

      April 29, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • rochdoc

      and that Devil is till working – through you. Now I believe in evil. Thanks.

      April 29, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  17. I am God

    Religion is disappearing quickly and people who are putting their faith into humanity and science are growing. The Illuminati shall return to Earth once again. Muahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 29, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • edwardo

      I so hope you're right! It's a lot to hope for.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • I am God

      Lol. I highly doubt it will happen in my lifetime, but I am sure it will be happening in a century or so for sure.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  18. Flim Flam Sauce

    ...However, I'd be there are a substantial number of black Christians who have heard Morgan Freeman's voice as the voice of God.

    BTW, James Earl Jones' voice doesnt count. Everyone knows that underneath the mask, Darth Vader is a white guy.

    April 29, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  19. Flim Flam Sauce

    Ten bucks says this white chick won't hear God as sounding like Morgan Freeman in 10,000 years.

    April 29, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  20. ec

    Why is this trash considered news?

    April 29, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • sam stone

      it is in the belief section. stick to the program

      April 29, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • z

      It is the main story on CNN.com also. Pure junk.

      April 29, 2012 at 8:31 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.