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. paully

    Yoda is from Star Trek? Karen get your head out of your ass. Idioit

    April 29, 2012 at 6:27 am |
  2. Colin

    There is another article on CNN this morning, about a Texas couple whose 6-month-old daughter will die by age 2 because of a genetic disorder. I wonder what God says to them and whose voice he uses when he explains to them why their beautiful little girl will suffer a slow, drawn out agonizing death.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:27 am |
    • Billy

      Or what he says to the thousands in Africa who will die of malnutrition. Or what he says to the many millions who lived before he was invented.

      April 29, 2012 at 6:41 am |
  3. JiminTX

    People who hear voices should be medicated.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:26 am |
  4. jack

    To think that the creator,if there be one, of our billion gallaxy universe is or ever was interested in what happens on this third rock from our star in our corner of the Milky Way gallaxy is absolute nonsense.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:25 am |
    • Colin

      It gets sillier. He supposedly creates the whole thing and then sits back and waits 13,720,000,000 years (age of Universe) for h.omom sapiens to evolve on one of 400 billion, billion planets, so he can "love them" and send his son to Earth to talk about sheeps and goats in late Iron Age PPalestine.

      Dark Ages nonsense.

      April 29, 2012 at 6:34 am |
  5. Antonio666

    Spock = Star Trek.

    Yoda = Star Wars.

    They're different. Ask Sheldon Cooper. Or Anderson Cooper, for that matter.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:20 am |
  6. Fred Magyar

    "I find that odd since God talks to me all the time."

    Hey, I just got a text message from The Great Creator Serpent, in charge of Fertility, Growth and Refreshing Rain. She is an Australian Aborigine God. Here is her text message roughly translated from the original Aborigine language...


    April 29, 2012 at 6:18 am |
  7. TheVoiceInMyHead

    God's voice sounds really squeaky and keeps telling me.. Hey.. If a baby dies at birth it goes straight to heaven so kill your children now!!!

    April 29, 2012 at 6:14 am |
  8. jdun

    Hearing voices can be a sign of mental illness- unless its God's voice, then its ok!

    April 29, 2012 at 6:06 am |
    • huh

      well lets see... people in thte bible said they heard god .... he have IN GOD we trust on money ... so i guess this whole place has some mental illness....... logical deducting lol

      April 29, 2012 at 6:11 am |
    • Ting

      Now you're catching on...

      April 29, 2012 at 6:13 am |
    • Jenny

      LOL I thought the same thing. If she was just a person hearing voices on the street she would be considered crazy, but put the word god in the mix and suddenly it's okay. Wow.

      April 29, 2012 at 6:16 am |
  9. Those used guys.

    Prayer has a powerful placebo effect on the faithful person doing the praying, makes him-her feel swell, but when they start hearing voices it indicates they forgot to take their medication. Prayer changes nothing beyond the cranium of the prayer.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:06 am |
  10. larry5

    Slow day in the newsroom.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:06 am |
  11. EmilioSanchez

    A shot of thorazine will clear that right up.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:05 am |
    • dogs rule

      Actually, Thorazine will make the voice sound like Rosie O'Donnell. I know; I'm on it. heeee heeeee heeee

      April 29, 2012 at 6:30 am |
  12. john warren

    You are very sick.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:03 am |
  13. WWJD

    All atheist fear Jesus and the Word of God but pretend they do not.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:02 am |
    • Steven Brooks


      Grow up.

      April 29, 2012 at 6:06 am |
    • joe Mamma

      No such thing as god

      April 29, 2012 at 6:08 am |
    • jdun

      No, I fear nuts like you who continue to try to shove your beliefs down my throat. I believe in freedom FROM religion.

      April 29, 2012 at 6:08 am |
    • Billy

      And your comment is based on what?

      April 29, 2012 at 6:27 am |
    • Nybrit

      The ones who should fear Jesus are today's Christians who have twisted his message.

      April 29, 2012 at 6:29 am |
    • galaxy101

      Afraid ??? Surely you jest. I pummeled Jesus's 4s$ in the 2nd grade and he and his bloody, broken nose haven't shown their face since. Oh WAIT...... you meant the fictional character, not Mr. Martinez... right ?

      April 29, 2012 at 6:30 am |
    • Billy

      The truest thing the bible says is ashes to ashes, dust to dust. We are the sun, and the stars. Every god imagined in history has had his time. If you would only take a close look at human history, you would see that the current list of gods are only the latest, not the greatest.

      April 29, 2012 at 6:37 am |
    • PaulInSC

      Not this atheist.
      I don't fear any "invisible man in the sky" who hasn't produced one credible, empirically based instance of his existence in over 3,000 years
      What is needed is for people to stop living by the rules of myth and mysticism and start living by the realities of the here and now

      April 29, 2012 at 6:38 am |
  14. Ken

    God speaks anyway he wants too, it is the fools that think he doesn't.

    April 29, 2012 at 6:00 am |
    • dogs rule

      THANK YOU, KEN. Your friend , G.

      April 29, 2012 at 6:27 am |
  15. lorraine

    Say whatever you want, but something is out there........

    April 29, 2012 at 6:00 am |
    • dogs rule

      Yeah, YOU!

      April 29, 2012 at 6:21 am |
  16. doctore0

    If I heard god/ghosts speak to me, I would seek medical help;

    April 29, 2012 at 5:59 am |
  17. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    I hear the audible voice of God???

    HOGWASH !!!

    All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching,
    rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
    so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped
    for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

    Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17

    Preach the Word;
    be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—
    with great patience and careful instruction.

    For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.
    Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers
    to say what their itching ears want to hear.

    They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 2 Timothy 4:2-4

    I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book:
    If anyone adds anything to them,
    God will add to him the plagues described in this book.

    And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy,
    God will take away from him his share in the tree of life
    and in the holy city,
    which are described in this book. Revelation 22:18-19

    April 29, 2012 at 5:59 am |
  18. TruthPrevails :-)

    To All The Atheists On This Board: Today is Mirosal's Birthday.

    April 29, 2012 at 5:59 am |
  19. Jason


    April 29, 2012 at 5:58 am |
  20. Carl

    Humans have an ability to imagine the possible reactions of other people. Anyone can and does do this. You do it when you imagine your mother's reaction to your new boyfriend or girlfriend. Your kids do it when they can hear your angry voice in their head telling them to stop doing whatever mischievous thing they are about to do.

    If you are nuts, or deluded by religious indoctrination, you might mistake your imagined voices for magical powers.

    April 29, 2012 at 5:53 am |
    • Ken

      Another stupid comment

      April 29, 2012 at 6:01 am |
    • Jason

      Ken's right, Carl. God is a close personal friend of mine, and He's telling me you're stupid, too. And a poopyhead. He's also telling me to tell you He's thirsty, and He wants a glass of water, and you better get it for Him, or you'll burn in a lake of everlasting fire. So there.

      April 29, 2012 at 6:22 am |
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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.