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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. b4bigbang

    Besides, Observer, you're thinking way too narrow on this.
    You should ask "why didnt this God give primitive Man future technology, like safe unlimited energy (for free!), the cure for all disease, foam rubber at the bottom of all cliffs and buildings, etc?
    How mean that he didnt!

    April 30, 2012 at 1:10 am |
    • b4bigbang

      Darn! My posts go all over the place! It's just so confusing!

      Hey, does anyone know why they have a replay button? What am I supposed to replay?

      April 30, 2012 at 1:14 am |
    • PILLOW PANTS

      Idiot

      April 30, 2012 at 1:33 am |
  2. BigRed

    God has a voice? Aside from billions of Christians saying God speaks to them, not a single soul has recorded God's voice.

    April 30, 2012 at 12:57 am |
    • b4bigbang

      RCA Victor: "his master's voice" (used w/out permission for entertainment purposes only)

      April 30, 2012 at 1:13 am |
    • sam stone

      Where are these recordings?

      April 30, 2012 at 3:46 am |
  3. b4bigbang

    IMPOSTER ALERT: IMPOSTER B4BIGBANG HAS ENTERED THE BUILDING.
    Take a bow fake bigbang!

    April 30, 2012 at 12:57 am |
    • b4bigbang

      IMPOSTER IMPOSTER ALERT!!! ALL-CAPS LEVEL EMERGENCY!!!!

      The imposter who pretends to be the imposter b4bigbang has gone down the hallway, and he didn't even bring cookies! These impsoter imposters are, wait, is that right? I'm getting confused again. I better just say something in all-caps so you don't notice how stupid I am.

      I AM NOT THE SHARPEST BULB IN THE TACO SHORT OF GOING TO THE TOP!!!!!!

      April 30, 2012 at 1:02 am |
  4. Epidi

    My favorite God voice was that of George Burns in the movie "Oh God!" with singer John Denver.

    April 30, 2012 at 12:54 am |
  5. Thebigguy

    I am not amused.

    April 30, 2012 at 12:50 am |
    • God

      I am not

      April 30, 2012 at 12:51 am |
    • Ronin

      I would think Christians would be interested in stuff like this. How would a person honestly know if they were talking to God, or Zeus, or the Devil. Do they just trust any voice in their head that claims to be God? And to think billions of people around the world follow people that did just that.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:54 am |
  6. Edward

    Why would anyone care what Hollywood thinks God's voice sounds like. Actors are just little wooden blocks that are given words to say and told how to talk and move. Hollywood is full of liars and perverts. Listening to Hollywood is a sure sign that you are walking down a lane to nowhere.

    April 30, 2012 at 12:49 am |
    • Scissorhands

      Uh, Edward? Your reading comprehension skills are truly . . . Christian. Hollywood didn't come up with this idea, nor are they participating in it. This is nothing more than an incredibly silly idea by the writer, who couldn't get a job cleaning toilets in West Hollywood, much less write for Hollywood.

      But thanks for sharing.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:55 am |
    • sam stone

      "Hollywood is full of liars and perverts"

      I think you are confusing Hollywood with the followers of christ

      April 30, 2012 at 3:48 am |
  7. Lizzy

    I can't believe they didn't put Morgan Freeman on the list! he's got the most awesome "god" voice I've ever heard. Seriously though, if you want to hear the real "voice" of God or whatever you want to call the "everything"....just listen to your kids laughing, or your favorite song, or pretty much anything that gives you joy. Being out in the woods with my sister on a warm summer day (free from mosquitoes) with the birds chirping is one of the voices of God to me. But if you can't there isn't anything wrong with you, I hope you find something that gives you true joy and you'll hear it eventually. If you surround yourself with people who love you its easier. If you don't have anyone who loves you...then go out and find out why. Love begets love. if you don't believe in the possibility of god, I don't blame you for feeling like that. I don't even go to church anymore, but I still feel connected to something really...I guess awesome is the word. sorry if I rambled a bit.. I get all emotional on topics like this. and I secretly wish god really did sound like Morgan Freeman sometimes. ^_^

    April 30, 2012 at 12:43 am |
    • Chuckles

      Nice sentiment and I agree that being out on a hike on a warm summer day sans mosquitos listening to the world go by, joy all around you is heart warming and really very nice. Will I give that to god? No, it's something that I personally enjoy and I don't need to pretend that it's something else other than what it is. Humanity.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:46 am |
    • Pfizer, Inc.

      That vision of God brought to you by Xanax. Xanax, The Happy Pill, so you can find God's love in a pickle.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:49 am |
    • Edward

      I was surprised the Great God King and Prophet Obama wasn't on the list.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:53 am |
    • Epidi

      From the cynical replies you got, I had to chirp in and say I understand where you are coming from. Nature is my "church" & there is nothing more divine than hearing the laughter of children – particularly babies – that gets me every time, lol.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:58 am |
    • Okey Dokey

      Most people prefer to chime in, but if you want to chirp, hey, go for it.

      April 30, 2012 at 1:04 am |
    • Jeanine

      ♫ chirp chirp ♫

      April 30, 2012 at 8:16 am |
  8. Larry Fine

    Out of curiousity, was the problem of crushed testicles so pervasive in olden times that God needed to make a law banning the victims from his churches?

    April 30, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • Observer

      God could watch all the people on the earth slowly drown, but he apparently can't handle gay people or crushed testicles.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:33 am |
    • God

      I was into my micromanagement stage when I came up with that. I came up with a lot of laws about how it is not okay to eat meat and dairy together, so a ham and chees sandwich or a perreroni pizza are sins, but eating a locust is okay. Don't shave your beard or cut your beard, don't go to one of my altars if you have a flat nose or are blind, you know common sense stuff, just detail-oriented.

      I did have an anger problem back then, lots of killing everyone and wiping out cities, but I am much better now.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:45 am |
  9. Bitsy Babbs

    Hello, CNN? I am Christian, and I have written some really air-headed articles on the weird, idiotic things I believe. How do I get them published on your site? You clearly love these kind of articles and publish them all the time, so I'm sure mine will fit your needs nicely. Here are some of the titles, so you can

    "Jesus Walks On Water On My Pool When I Am Not Looking"

    "My Faith: Becoming Queen Of America, And Other Prayers That Haven't Happened Yet But Are About To!"

    "My Take: Mormons Are Poo-Poo Heads Because They Believe In Things That Are Really Similar To What I Believe In, But Not Quite."

    "The Dalai Lama Is A Poo-Poo Head Too, Just Because."

    "This Breaking News Just In: Generalissimo Chuck Colson Is Still Dead"

    Let me know where to send those articles. I guarantee they are not any worse than this one.

    April 30, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      None of this is funny at all. Making fun of Christianity is a sin.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • Tony "Noodles" Rigatoni, Goodfella

      Flying Spaghetti Monster speaks to me, and he says it is hilarious, and there is really no such thing as sin, that's just a Christian delusion. He also says that Christians are the angriest, most humorless and hypocritical religious people in the world.

      He also keeps saying "Arrrgh!!", but I am not sure what that is all about.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:38 am |
    • Petruski

      I love it!

      April 30, 2012 at 12:40 am |
    • b4bigbang

      How bout instead of describing it as pc, you can see it as a parent teaching his tot how to eat, dress, bathe, wipe, etc, before he teaches him calc?

      April 30, 2012 at 1:03 am |
    • b4bigbang

      I know that didn't make any sense at all, but God told me to write it. Oh, he's talking to me again! He told me that I must cut down the mightiest tree in the forest with a herring!

      April 30, 2012 at 1:11 am |
    • sam stone

      "sin" is a concept that christians use to flagellate themselves. makes them feel all pious and such.

      April 30, 2012 at 4:00 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      Hmmmm,

      Making fun of Islam is also a sin, just ask any imam.

      Sound familiar?

      April 30, 2012 at 5:03 am |
  10. b4bigbang

    @Booty: "poor ethics outlined in the Bible"? Of course you mean from our viewpoint right?
    I remember hearing about negative criticism coming from anthropologists years ago where they didn't like the fact that developed Westerners werte going into the rain forest, Borneo and other places, making "1st contact" with the natives, and then they started training the natives to replace their old ways with western ways.
    For example, telling them to eat pork instead of each other (they called the human meat 'long pork' after that).

    April 30, 2012 at 12:09 am |
    • Observer

      "Our viewpoint" is that slavery is wrong and discrimination against women is wrong and discrimination against the handicapped is wrong, but you are free to disagree. You're the Christian.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • b4bigbang

      I wonder if those anthropologists were Christian.
      Nah. probably atheists.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • b4bigbang

      Being kinda hard on your ancestors arent you Observer?

      April 30, 2012 at 12:20 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      Atheists will try to turn everything around to make the Bible look wrong.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • Observer

      My ancestors didn't make God discriminate against the handicapped. My ancestors didn't tell God he doesn't want men with crushed testicles in his church.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:22 am |
    • b4bigbang

      How do you know this Observer?

      April 30, 2012 at 12:24 am |
    • Observer

      b4bigbang,

      "How do you know this Observer?". Know what? That my ancestors didn't get God to change his mind and discriminate against men with crushed testicles?

      April 30, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • b4bigbang

      That's right PRISM1234. I guess it's being an "arm-chair quarterback". If *I* were running the team, i know i could do way better!

      April 30, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • b4bigbang

      Read the Bible more closely Observer. I remember off-hand at least one passage where the Israelites basically DEMANDED that they wanted a human king and God basically said ok.
      You shouldnt neglect the human side of the equation.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:30 am |
    • Observer

      b4bigbang,

      I've read the Bible and this is what it says:

      – Leviticus 21:16-23 “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to Aaron, saying, 'No man of your offspring
      throughout their generations who has a defect shall approach to offer the food of his God. For no one who has a defect shall approach: a blind man, or a lame man, or he who has a disfigured face, or any deformed limb, or a man who has a broken foot or broken hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf, or one who has a defect in his eye or eczema or scabs or crushed testicles."

      April 30, 2012 at 12:38 am |
    • b4bigbang

      That is not in the Bible.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:45 am |
    • Petruski

      Noone needs bend anything to make the Bible look bad. You just have to read it. This so-called 'God' ordering people to be stoned, ordering parents to beat and even kill their children, etc., etc. Just read it.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:46 am |
    • Observer

      b4bigbang,

      Are you actually going to claim that the Bible doesn't say what it does? Are you really serious?

      April 30, 2012 at 12:48 am |
    • b4bigbang

      Right Observer, and the very next verse says he did it because he hates the handicapped?
      Possibly because God in his wisdom knew how to relate to the primitives of the time, by slowly civilizing them. Evidence: After denying the handicapped the priesthood he ordered these primitives to feed them form the priestly offerings, the most holy offerings.
      I imagine at that time in history, many of those primitive cultures were quite possibly throwing the handicapped out in the street (survival of the fittest thing) or even using them for target practice, knowing what we know of the barbarity of ancient practices.
      So, I see an improvement here, not discrimination.
      Speaking of which, it was only in recent years that ramps were put in buildings, and that because of force of law.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:52 am |
    • Observer

      b4bigbang,

      C'mon. Your excuse for God's discrimination against the handicapped is that God wanted to be politically correct for the time.

      That's more humorous than serious.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:56 am |
    • b4bigbang

      FAKE B4BIGBANG HAS ENTERED THE BUILDING.
      2 bigbangs to deal with now.....
      I'm popular wow.

      April 30, 2012 at 1:00 am |
    • goddog

      b4bigbang... It most certainly is. If you have a bible you should read it sometime, otherwise, how can you defend that which you don't know? Please respond so we can all know your feelings on the matter and how you justify this.

      April 30, 2012 at 1:05 am |
    • goddog

      Wow. Why was it hard for you to believe that that was in the bible to begin with? You didn't say that you were sure that there was a good explanation, you denied it as if to disassociate yourself from such a horrible statement. Then to apologise that a god who holds the power simply wipe out the discrimination has to use some delicate mechanism to make things better, is about as ridiculous as can be and I can't believe that you could make such a statement without feeling embarrassed. I'm embarrassed for you.

      April 30, 2012 at 1:13 am |
  11. EEP!

    Doesn't matter what it would sound like. If your hearing voices, seek help immediately, do not do what it says, just go straight to a hospital or mental health clinic.

    April 30, 2012 at 12:06 am |
  12. DG

    Perry Mason would not have said "'C'mon..." He would have said "Isn't it true that you offered some fruit to your husband?"

    April 30, 2012 at 12:05 am |
  13. Synapse

    God sounds like Ray Charles singing from his soul.

    April 30, 2012 at 12:03 am |
  14. RichardSRussell

    You know how George W. Bush claimed he heard God talking to him? Turns out it was just Cheney on the intercom.

    April 29, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • Observer

      Apparently God gave Bush lots of really bad advice.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • God

      It wasn't Cheney; It was me! Damn right I talked to Georgie W! Here is what I said:

      "George, you need to go to war in two places, even though on had nothing to do with 9/11 and doesn't pose a threat. Just kick their butts until you have to leave with nothing to show for it beyond a lot of debt and a pile of American corpes who died for nothing.

      "I also want you to set up a concentration camp in Cuba, secret prisons throughout Eastern Europe, and torture a lot of suspects. Electronically evesdrop on all Americans. Limit free speech to free speech zones. Pack the courts and attorney generals with partisan hacks. And when the economic disaster comes, bail out the corporations who caused it but leave the ordinary Americans to default."

      That's what I, God, said to W.

      Wait a minute! I am Satan, not God!

      April 30, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      George Bush DID in fact get direction from God. His plan is far greater than you could ever imagine. When are atheists ever going to learn that they don't know everything? We were attacked first and Bush's actions are completely justifiable.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:12 am |
    • Observer

      PRISM 1234,

      Obviously God never warned Bush that terrorists were coming to kill mostly Christians.

      "We were attacked first". Not by Iraq where Bush started a war for false reasons. Guess God didn't tell him that. Bad advice.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • sam stone

      When are mother-humpers like prism going to realize that they do not know everything?

      April 30, 2012 at 4:04 am |
    • Yeah

      You meant to say "anything," not "everything."

      April 30, 2012 at 4:05 am |
  15. Jerome Horowitz

    Not you

    April 29, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • Moses . . . Horwitz

      Hey Curly, it was Horwitz, not Horowitz.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:24 am |
  16. Tr1Xen

    Like George Carlin! 😉

    April 29, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
  17. craig

    Like a HAL 9000 computer

    April 29, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
  18. Ituri

    The only voice you should ever hear is your own conscience telling you to be a better person, or warning you when you're about to do something stu pid.

    If ANYTHING else is telling you to do things, see a doctor for that schizophrenia. Medications are extremely effective today with few side-effects.

    April 29, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
  19. Martin

    "God's" voice told Abraham to kill his son Isacc and then burn the body as a sacrifice. Say what!!! There is no God but humans sure love imaginary voices in their heads. This is the dumbest article to ever appear on CNN.

    April 29, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      do christians ever actually think that story through? God told him to murder his own son - but it was only a test! how sick and disgusting is that? what kind of a vile and evil god would tell a man to stab his own son to death.

      imagine someone taking their son to a mountain to sacrifice him today. someone because it's in the bible, it's okay. but what if someone said God told them to sacrifice their son, just like in the bible? how do you christians know if he's crazy or really talking to God?

      the whole cult of christianity is just sick.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • Stepanek

      If you want a hideous test, look at what God did to Job, to prove a point to Satan. Weird, ridiculous, and very sick.

      April 29, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  20. Ulster Bobby Sands

    The only thing to do when you hear God's voice is to tell him calmly that no, you are not going to go on a killing rampage like he says.

    April 29, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • Bible Bob, Knight of Infallibillibbabbity

      Let's see, there have been at least 4,000 gods known throughout history, and probably more since before then. Therefore Jesus is the one true God.

      I have an old book with lots of weird contradictory tales. It is one of hundreds of such texts, and all are equally credible. Therefore, the Bible is the true word of God.

      I have absolutely no evidence to support anything I believe in. Therefore it is true.

      I cannot prove that Jesus even existed. Therefore, it all happened exactly like the Bible says.

      It's just so obvious that God exists!

      April 29, 2012 at 11:55 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.