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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

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soundoff (3,288 Responses)
  1. God's Oldest Dreamer

    In my passing way,I read some of the bible's verses of scripture! I found a verse that told one to "First seek the Kingdom of God" and since that time I have searched hi and low but could not find it! Reading more bible scripture I then came across a verse declaring the "The kingdom of God is inside you"! Okay but how could this be? We are all made up of cells from skin cells to bone cell to blood cells and many more different cells! Could these cells really be God's Kingdom(s)?

    Years went by before I again did think about the Kingdom(s) of God! Reading more scripture, I came across another interesting verse! It was in 1 Corinthians Chapter 3, verse 9. This verse started out declaring we labour together "with God"! Okay! We labour together with God! Could this mean that we are at a firm footing with God in that we do labour in equalityb with the Almighty? The second portion of this verse did declare God to be "our Husbandry"! Could God being our Husbandry mean that God is at the helm so-to-speak of our being created in one's mother's womb? It kinda makes sense since our bodies are the Kingdom(s) of God! The third and final section of this verse threw a wrench in my understandings!

    This third section decalred that we are God's "buildings"! I thought we were Godly Kingdoms! Now scripture imparts to one that we are God's "buildings"! What gives? How can our bodies be both Kingdoms and buildings? I was at a complete loss to understand such things! I left it simmer inside me for a few years! While simmering I came across an internet site regarding Fractal Cosmology!

    To be continued at a later date!

    April 29, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      At first glance, I read this post beginning with "As I was passing away..."

      Imagine my disappointment in re-reading.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • popeye1128

      Time for your pill. Nice rant though.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • A Chair To Your Face

      All this coming from the guy that admitted to banging his little brother. You've got nothing credible to say to anyone, anywhere, ever you filthy scumbag.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Oh, no, not again. Let's take two scientific terms and fit them together and put up a web-site with a half-baked paper on it that was never published or made it to a poster session at any reputable conference.

      You could just as easily watch the "History" or "Discovery" channels for the next whacko thing s/he will post. What's next, Hitler's Alien "Bell" UFO?

      April 29, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • God's Oldest Dreamer

      A Chair To Your Face,,,,,,,,,,,, ,.

      In dire want to be understood by the pain I am still suffering for an Act that happened just one time over 43 years ago when I was 13 and brother was 3! The details unimportant but mt debt to my brother has been and still is being paid! Brother grew up and he did marry and had 2 very beautifull children! His daughter is expecting her 3rd child giving brother 3 grandchildren! For the past few years brother has not been working and we survive on my monthly check! I do not mind his not having a job. I am though concerned about his binge drinking. Brother is a godly person even though he rejects any thoughts of or about God and religion! We today live together and we survive together!

      You calling me a filthy dirtbag does no one any good. I have repented of my sin and am paying brther back for my trespassing against him! Your hatred against something that you know only a little bit about is your choice! I pray you be well in your bitterness ways!

      April 29, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • God's Oldest Dreamer

      Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son,,,,,,,,,,,, ,

      🙂 🙂 🙂

      April 29, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
  2. Kevin

    God sounds like this:

    April 29, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      I heard that!

      April 29, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
  3. cd

    Why would you take ad money from the devil on this page when you talk about god. You have a ad to RE-elect 0BAMA

    April 29, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • Oh yeah

      You do know how incredibly funny it will be for us to watch you right-wing whack-a-doodles flip out on election night as your unelectable candidate watches the inevitable occur.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • wryng

      How could it possibly be called heaven, if you are going to be there and I have to spend eternity with people like you? That's why there is no God. Because my idea of hell, is spending eternity with a bunch of Republican Christians and that would break the rules.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
  4. popeye1128

    If you hear god in your head, you need a doctor and some righteous medication.

    April 29, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
  5. tensai13

    God sounds like one hand clapping. Next stupid question.

    April 29, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
  6. The Other Guy

    If the Lord ever spoke to me, I'm confident that not only would He sound like Morgan Freeman, He'd also be Morgan Freeman

    April 29, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • TNT

      Jack Lord never spoke to me. I am very disappointed

      April 29, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
  7. Jennifer Creadick

    I vote for George Burns

    April 29, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
  8. Big Jim Gubmo

    We are all voices, crying in the wilderness. No one' opinion should ever be shaped by something they read on an anonymous internet comment board.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • TNT

      That's very profound, in an incredibly stupid way

      April 29, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • sam stone

      "No one' opinion should ever be shaped by something they read on an anonymous internet comment board."

      Or a book of translated, edited iron age hearsay

      April 30, 2012 at 4:16 am |
  9. I am Sam

    Priests don't marry because ..

    This is true and obvious, but I first hear it referenced on the Science Channel. Priests do no marry because the church needs to retain the wealth earned by the priests If a priest were married and died, his wife would get half of his riches. This way, the wealth stays in the 'family'. All of this 100% dedicated to God stuff is rubbish..lol

    April 29, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
  10. Reflecto

    Given all the carnage he has caused, all the people he has killed (first born of Egypt), he probably sound like a cross between Charles Manson and Adolf Hitler.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Big Jim Gubmo

      Cartman:

      "Kyle- God is not a d ick."

      That sums it all up.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  11. Objective

    I fail to understand why Atheists waste ANY time whatsoever on these religious topics?? If you believe something doesn't exist why must you prove it to everyone else? You are always complaining how Christians are always shoving God down your throats-Yet you do the same thing to everyone else. You have proven yourselves to be hypocrits.

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

      Why did Einstein prove his theory of relativity? Why did he bother?

      BECAUSE IT IS THE WAY THINGS ARE.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No such thing. Try to learn how to spell the words you use.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • Objectivless

      "You have proven yourselves to be hypocrits." I guess it takes one to know one eh?

      April 29, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • Observer

      Speaking of hypocrites, it's not atheists who are depriving others of equal rights or call doctors murderers when they do nothing illegal.

      Guess again.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • Objective

      Oless–I never said I was a Christian did I? You did. I neither believe nor disbelieve. But you proved my point in that you can't even come up with an intelligent response.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • Objective

      Of all the comments thus far not one of you can come up with an intelligent explanation to a very simple question.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Are atheists trying to force you to continue a pregnancy against your will? Do they insist you pray to a non-existent God publicly and aloud? Do they tell you that you must teach children that creationism is just as valid as evolution as a scientific theory?

      Didn't think so.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Are atheists forcing you to use public property to advertise and promote a belief?

      Yeah, didn't think so.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Objective, I can't speak for others, but my own "coming out" happened because of the uproar and backlash surrounding the Dover case. Many of us were mobilized (through professional scientific and engineering organizations) to go and fight for our students and fight for our children. We have had prayer in school, and the supernatural printed on our money, and present in our nation's pledge for decades. It's a throw-back to McCarthyism (the pledge) and slavery (the disbelief in evolution, Scopes "Monkey Trial", etc.), and it's disgusting. Americans feel the need for freedom, yet allow themselves (and encourage their children) to be indoctrinated into the realm of the "supernatural". Science doesn't deal with the supernatural.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • TheTrueRealityCheck

      @ OOO Einstein believed in God

      April 29, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No. Einstein didn't. At least not in the sense you mean it.

      But then,you're an idiot, and Einstein was brilliant.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  12. non believer

    While God does not exists, I know that demons do. I have had a couple follow me around for years now.

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

      Demons cannot exist without God since they are fallen angels,- at least the way the Bible explains it, therefore you don't make sense.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • OOO

      Ha... HE doesn't make sense now, does he. My side is splitting...

      April 29, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
    • Big Jim Gubmo

      @Objective- NOWHERE in the Bible does it say that demons are fallen angels. In the OT it refers to demons as the sons of God. In the NT it refers to demons, but NO reference to them being fallen angels or the same characters as the "sons of God" in the OT.

      John Milton said demons were fallen angels, my friend. And HE was going off of comsogonies developed by crackpot medieval theologians.

      Read Jeffrey Burton Russell's five volume History of the Devil before making such an ignor ant statement next time.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • I am Sam

      Thats ok, 99% of the other people understand. Perhaps you are too young to have formally met your personal demons. yet

      April 29, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • Objective

      Big Jim Gubmo–And I should believe what you read as fact. It is you who is ignorant. Enjoy your bliss.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • Big Jim Gubmo

      @Objective- the problem with you is your false belief that the Bible "explains" things. Most of the time it just contains diverse and noncomplementary statements, which neurotic, insecure religion people have attempted to tie together to create correlations out of thin air. The soon you stop believing the Bible "explains" much of anything, the better. Start reading the individual books for the works of art and literature that they are, and if God "speaks" to you through that, then so be it. But please don't try to create causal links that simply DO NOT exist, in an effort to make the Bible more palatable to your own sense of reason.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • Big Jim Gubmo

      And yeah, you should believe what I say and take it as fact, over whoever the hell else you've been listening to. You fool.

      Or if not, consult a real unbiased expert in the field- i can recommend a few, if you'd like. but better for you than staying on the path you are currently on...heading to ignorance and despair.

      Your "bliss" will be your undoing.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
  13. JohnQuest

    Is it not a clue that God sounds just People she already know

    April 29, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
  14. R

    Why are these articles on CNN's website? In what way is this at all news? I can't find it. It's not even religious news!

    Eek.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • Johnny Blammo

      Comic relief

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

      And why am I reading it? And not only that, spending more time posting about how much time this useless article is taking of my life...And then checking back to see if anyone noticed my post, so that I can post again to debate how no time should be wasted with this article...

      April 29, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
  15. Flipider.com

    God voice must be a sound sound I can't understand & because for this reason I ask for very little from God.....

    April 29, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  16. non believer

    Jesus sounds like Dr Seuss to me

    April 29, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • Theo Geisel

      Jesus is the Cat on the Cross...

      April 29, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
    • I am Sam

      I see that man, the wonderful man, the man he seems to be the boss.

      Change of pace, the man is a discrace, his hands are tied to a cross.

      Now the man is on the cross, his memories all but lost,

      From this bucket of nails, I grab a nail, .. a nail to impapele... and imaple the man upon the cross.

      dong get me going...

      April 29, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  17. Josie

    Hm, my dad has a college degree and is a devote Christian. So education means nothing, plus I am going to college for a degree in philosophy and theology...so again that seems to be counter productive and oh I'm not Christian, I'm Pagan. I have a belief and faith in God(s) and I do acknowledge science as well.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      A 'devote Christian', huh? Of course, education means nothing to you, since you don't have any.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • placate

      got a good laugh reading your post Josie...

      April 29, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • non believer

      As you as you believe in invisible, magical people, you will not be seen as an educated or intelligent person.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • n8263

      Exceptions do not disprove generalities.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • momoya

      Lots of people with advanced degrees have horrible analytical reasoning skills.. You can succeed in college by just doing what you're told.. I expect religious non-thinkers would do better, actually in most college courses.. Analytical thinking is NOT indicated by IQ or degree..

      April 29, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      You can't really believe in science and believe in unprovable assertions. Or maybe you only believe in science when it's convenient.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
  18. Everett Wallace

    Is it possible to broadcast globally what happened in that court room at the mental hospital. The world wants to HEAR how GOD THE FATHER voice really sound, let them see this, there are no security risks.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  19. Jean

    What if God isn't white, doesn't speak English, and isn't a Republican?

    April 29, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      bigfart's penis would droop even more.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • turn it off

      ...or isn't a man, or a woman, or any living thing, and hasn't decided to support any of the current or past religions, is still figuring out what planet his "chosen carbon-based living organisms" should come from, or whether they should be carbon-based at all.........

      April 29, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • non believer

      God has to a Jew doesnt he? I seem to recall some stories about God parting the seas for the Jews and looking after them.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • Big Jim Gubmo

      If God's a jew, then his mother probably looked like Betty Frieden. The world's a scary place, my friend.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  20. Steve the Goat

    Since god doesn't exist, god sounds like nothing. Damned fools.

    April 29, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
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