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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. Argie57

    Questions for CNN:

    Are you serious?

    Do you call this reporting?

    Pathetic

    April 29, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • Observer

      It got your attention. You read it and even commented. Just what CNN intended.

      One point for CNN. 1 to 0.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Sarda

      Read "The Philosophy of Divine Love" By Swami Prakashanand Sarashwati. You will all get the answers.

      May 8, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  2. OMG

    Why are atheists fat and unhealthy?

    Because they sit and eat burgers, fries, pizza, cakes, cookies and drink coke behind their screen on CNN

    April 29, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • Observer

      Deep thinking.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Projecting again, honey? Time to lose that muffin-top. It's obscuring your camel-toe.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • Big Jim Gubmo

      Why is evewyone so fooking stoopid?

      You must be vewy ronery.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      Which is why the Bible Belt has the fattest citizens in the states.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      So, you're an atheist?

      April 29, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  3. GodIsForDummies

    I could tell by the blogger's big, fat, stupid face that this article would amuse me. "Jesus rode on dinosaurs", is all I have to say about this idiotic crap.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • Big Jim Gubmo

      g-d amnit, shut up! Yore wrong. He rode on woolly mammoths.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • a reasonable athiest

      But what did the mammoths ride? That's right.. dinosaurs.

      May 1, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  4. ElmerGantry

    One ping post and one ping post only.

    1) CNN is obviously trying to compete with FAUX by becoming more tabloid like. Hint to CNN executives, you will not be able to outfox FAUX.

    2) I am going to simply "sit back, relax, and chuckle at all the fundie stupidstïtous posts. Have at it fundies, laughter is the best medicine.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  5. OldWestGambler

    Trying to be as nonprejudicial as I can possibly be, I sincerely hope that people who say that God speaks to them, and that they can actually hear his voice, are people who do not have access to firearms.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • Satan

      Or children.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Big Jim Gubmo

      Or dogs, lizards, or light sockets.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
  6. Portland tony

    I hear the "Sound of Silence"! And the lyrics are a good fit too.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  7. Dave

    If you are hearing voices...perhaps you need a shrink rather than more religion?

    April 29, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
  8. Alice T.

    Please don't laugh at me, but God spoke to me today. I am absolutely sure of it. I heard God speak to me as I was driving my car. I had just come to a stop, and I heard it, clear as day. There was no human anywhere around, and yet that voice shone through, so beautiful and clear and reassuring.

    I talked with God briefly. He asked me what I wanted, which I thought was very compassionate – God is indeed love. I told him, and in the warmest voice reassured me that I will get it. God then asked me if I wanted fries with that, but I said no, the Quarter Pounder will be fine.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • Pipes

      You sound like a typical fat American troll who loves fast food...

      b!tch

      April 29, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • Big Jim Gubmo

      I always said God was a ne gro teen in Compton, working on his G.E.D.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Ah. So God is a high school drop-out. I thought so.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • Big Jim Gubmo

      It's true, Tom. Seriously, who else would think of sending billions of people to hell just because one naked chick ate an apple?

      April 29, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • C.S. Deckard

      To quote Pen Jillette:

      "If god (however you perceive him/her/it) told you to kill your child – would you do it? If your answer is no, in my booklet you’re an atheist. There is doubt in your mind. Love and morality are more important to you than your faith. If your answer is yes, please reconsider."

      April 29, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Big Jim Gubmo

      C.S.: beautifully said, my friend. Very apt.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  9. wryng

    If I could bring myself to believe in God, I would have to believe that there is an all powerful, all seeing, all knowing being that gives cancer to babies every day and sees nothing wrong with that. So if there is such a God, why would anybody want to worship the jerk? Before you start with the "Everything happens for a reason" B.S., I'm pretty sure that I could come up with a better way of accomplishing something than by giving a baby a horrible birth defect. That's just a total lack of creativity and sort of a Dick move.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
  10. Chis

    seriously do atheists ever smile and are happy?! Never seem like it unfortunately...

    April 29, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • Big Jim Gubmo

      We smile when we're having se x, which is quite a lot these days. You on the other hand, why you just close your eyes and grit your teeth.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • Johnny Blammo

      We're laughing our asses off on this golden thread, my friend! You have no idea how funny Christian "logic" is, or just how much fun it is to watch someone try to debate when they cannot support anything they say with evidence.

      Lots of laughter, and thanks!

      April 29, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Are you kidding? I get a huge laugh out of posts made by believers here. They're just so...earnest.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • sportreform

      You're a downer, Chris. That's the real reason. And it's not just the athiests who feel that way.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      All the time, especially when we're laughing at how silly religious folks are.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  11. C.S. Deckard

    Two things:

    1. Why does James Earl Jones look whiter than Leonard Nimoy?

    2. How did you forget Morgan Freeman?

    Seriously though, an amusing article.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Shmel Shmi Shlomo

      C.S. Deckard- because Darth Vader's a white guy, dude...or didn't you watch the prequels?

      April 29, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • Dave

      And what about George Burns? Oh god!

      April 29, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
  12. Gradma

    ATHEISTS NEEDS THEIR KIDS TO BE TAKEN AWAY FROM THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They teach their kids to act like Satan !!!!!

    April 29, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Satan

      Go die already grandma. Its not the 1500's anymore, we stopped burning witches and eating the flesh of 2000 year old Mesopotamian gods. It's just so outdated

      April 29, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • sportreform

      ain't no satan either, grandma.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What, do they use only one exclamation point? What an abomination!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      April 29, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • Ting

      So you are telling me that the men who flew the planes into the World Trade Center were the offspring of atheists?

      April 29, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • Dave

      Science flies you to the moon, religion flies you into buildings.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  13. Shmel Shmi Shlomo

    Hello all,

    I just wanted to share my breakthrough experience. I believe God spoke to me yesterday in the ur inal...that is, until I realized that it was just a kidney stone trying to break through...

    Shabbat Shalom mot hafo(kers.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • George Armani

      My friend, it sounds like you are describing a "second circu mcision" experience...

      April 29, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • Hassidic nerd

      Hi Jesus Christ killers...... go eat some kosher pork

      April 29, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Pipes

      How did it feel when your rabbi su.cked your pe nis blood when getting circ umstized?

      April 29, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Shmel Shmi Shlomo

      Pipes: your mother s uc ks c oc ks in hell!

      April 29, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • Pipes

      You mean your jewish mother? right ?

      I thought jews don't believe in hell (?) LOL.... go make some $$$$$$$

      April 29, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
  14. unowhoitsme

    No interpretation that man has..God is God...so be it. Religion is man's interpretation...man doesn't even get close to the real thing. Which ALWAYS leads people astray.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
  15. sportreform

    white noise. all things make believe sound like white noise.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
  16. b4bigbang

    Oh, we'll disappear one of these days for sure, but no man knows the day nor the hour.
    Regarding the popularity of Christianity, there will come an apostasy before Jesus returns.
    He asked "when the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?"
    Who knows when that will be however.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • mikstov33

      Look around. The apostasy is breathin down our necks ever heavy right now.This really ain't what Jesus had in mind. He came the first time to reprove the faith....he'll be back to do the same.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • b4justsayin is just a liar

      Right. You have been telling us for weeks how the latest earthquake is proof positive that the End Of Times is on, and now you are saying that it can't be known.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • Satan

      Nothing can compare to the utter fear and shame that will happen as the life slowly leaves your body, and everything fades to black. Imagine the fear you will feel when you wait for the light to come and it doesn't. Imagine your hopes, all the lies you've ever lived, all the ways you've deluded yourself all these years finally hitting you at the same moment when you realize you will never see your loved ones again, and as everything fades to black you realize that you have lived a complete lie. Imagine the fear in that moment.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      One can only hope the hour is near for you, bigfart.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Wow, you went to the trouble of creating your own moniker with my name in it, i am impressed.
      Seriously, we are in the last days – it's not my idea, it's in the Bible!
      We just don't know exactly when all the crazy stuff in Revelation will hit, that's all....

      April 29, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      bigfart=chicken tiny penis.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Yes mikstov33, for we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ...

      April 29, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
  17. Flim Flam Sauce

    Won't you come with me to Alabamy
    Let's go see my dear old Mammy
    She's fryin' eggs and boiling hammy
    That's what I like about the South.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  18. Worried mom

    My prayer goes to nonbelievers.... feel sad for them and their children being brainwashed. Hopefully they can escape their torture and seek their lord and saviour

    April 29, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • Satan

      And my prayer goes out to your children, in hopes that they, unlike their mother, go to college and get an education, and learn to think for themselves instead of being fed a 2000 year old fairy tale

      April 29, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • Ting

      My prayer goes to nonbelievers.... feel sad for them and their children being brainwashed

      You have that backwards. My kids are being taught to think. If they want to be religious, that's fine. It's their decision not mine.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      Another delusional hypocrite who can't see the irony in their words.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • HeyZues

      Don;t pray for me. I will have noone making false claims to false gods in my name!

      April 29, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • George Armani

      My "prayer" goes to Worried moms like you- that your children's brains would be washed clean of your undue influence, and that they would be allowed and encouraged to think for themselves.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • George Armani

      @Worried mom: My "prayer" goes to Worried moms like you- that your children's brains would be washed clean of your undue influence, and that they would be allowed and encouraged to think for themselves.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • AGuest9

      "escape their torture"???

      I don't have foolishness rammed down MY throat every Sunday. There is no torture for me to escape.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I'm worried about your children, mom. They're being parented by a nincompoop.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • Big Jim Gubmo

      @Tom- go a little easy on "mom" k buddy? For all we know, she thinks "nincompoop" us a kama sutra position.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  19. bob

    God sounds like Santa with a hint of easter bunny, and a dash of Leprechaun

    April 29, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • GodPot

      Sooo, more like Bobcat Goldthwait?

      April 29, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
  20. mikstov33

    Apparantly, for Boko Haram in Nigeria, he sounds like AK-47's and IED's killing innocent Christians.Just happened today, and I doubt you will see anyone brave enough to condenm it on this "Belief Blog".....I mean anyone from CNN.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Second the motion to condemn. All opposed? None. So noted.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • Big Jim Gubmo

      Sorry, I'll be in Boca Raton for the weekend. No time to condemn. I hear Boko Haram is beautiful this time of year.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • mikstov33

      @ Big Jim You must be from CNN....Do you even know what Boko Haram is?

      April 29, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • Big Jim Gubmo

      Yeah, MikStick, I do: it's that game that old retired people play by throwing softball size colored b alls into the grass and seeing which one lands closest to the "tracer" ball.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • mikstov33

      Hey Gummy..you are an idiot.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:05 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.