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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. Julie

    God speaks to us telepathically. We "know"

    1 Kings 19:12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

    April 30, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • your god is irreducibly complex

      Quoting scripture proves nothing. Other religions have scripture, as well. What makes yours right, and all others wrong?

      April 30, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  2. TG

    Jesus said to Philip, when asked to see "the Father": "Have I been with you men so long a time, and yet, Philip, you have not come to know me? He that has seen me has seen the Father [also]. How is it you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in union with the Father and the Father is in union with me? The things I say to you men I do not speak of my own originality; but the Father who remains in union with me is doing his works."(John 14:9, 10)

    Thus, Jesus perfectly reflected his Father, Jehovah God. Hence, in looking at Jesus perfect example on the earth, a person can then see how the Father, Jehovah, would speak. Satan, when having entered before God during the time of Job questioning Job's integrity, knew Jehovah as a God of moral standards, not as a capricious, erratic person. Had he known Jehovah as a God given to uncontrolled, violent outbursts, he could only have expected immediate, on-the-spot extermination for the course he took.

    April 30, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  3. richunix

    Because (we) only hear him in our mind, it is whatever we wish him to sound like. For those who say they hear voices….you may want to see a professional doctor. In short, it is whatever you wish to hear. Outside of that NO ONE (BAR NONE) have ever seen any deity. So please spare me the burning bush stories or any story that only a single person has heard, seen or talked with. The Bible is a series of stories written in a time when PROOF was not required and the world was at least understood. This falls in the same category as recordings from “HELL”, which have long been proven to be a hoax. Enjoy life on life terms and you may find yourself a lot happier.
    Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

    April 30, 2012 at 8:46 am |
  4. your god is irreducibly complex

    This is way too simple. What does God sound like? Whatever you want it to sound like, because its voice is entirely made up in your brain.

    April 30, 2012 at 8:43 am |
  5. BobbyGB

    Come on people, lighten up and have some fun with this. We've all seen movies that portray a voice of God and it is fun discuss it without getting all political "God is in control" or "in your face atheism." It's Monday people, and I can't start the week with another bs overgeneralizing and polarizing political argument that simply boils down to people refusing to see and respect the perspectives of others.

    Besides, the voice of God sounds like Alec Guinness. Take that to your church or lawn mowing or whatever you do Sunday morning. I don't care! I'll let you believe what you want if you let me believe what I want. If we aren't hurting each other, then what's the big deal?

    April 30, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • your god is irreducibly complex

      Ridiculous beliefs deserve to be ridiculed, simple as that.

      April 30, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • AJinKC

      Because we are hurting each other, that's why it is a big deal. Wars and inequality in the name of God hurts people.

      April 30, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • BobbyGB

      Nonsense! People who are attention seeking snobs (on both sides) ridicule each other. And I suppose there has never been a war absent of religious purpose... You might as well blame human nature. People only intellectually hurt you today if they cause you to doubt yourself to the point of hostility. I'm secure in my beliefs enough to not be rattled.

      April 30, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • your god is irreducibly complex

      This person thinks that she is so special that god speaks to her, out of the 7 billion other people on this planet. Give me a break, if it was this simple, we would all be believers. I'll say again, her thought that the voice in her head is god, is ridiculous and deserves to be ridiculed.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • AJinKC

      You said if we aren't hurting each other, then what's the big deal. I'm simply commenting on that, people do get hurt in the name of God and religion as you pointed out in your reply. And yes there are all sorts of way people can hurt eachother, but that is no reason to support them. Bullying is another way of hurting eachother. Is bullying ok because hey, there are many other way people eachother.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Jeanine

      These aren't the voices you're looking for.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • NonAtheist

      Your comments are a breath of fresh air in a stuffy room full of smelly people. Thank you.

      April 30, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • BobbyGB

      @AJinKC, Correct, people find ways of hurting each other without religion or absence of religion being at the source. So long as people aren't hurting each other, then let them be. If bullying or other acts are committed, ridicule the acts, punish those at fault, but do not blame the entire ideology. I can't blame Islam for 9/11, I can't blame Christianity for Hitler, and I can't blame Atheism for Stalin. I blame the people and the actions. Just as I know law abiding and respectful Muslims, Christians, Atheists, Hindus, and Jews, I respect them for their actions and do not hold ideology as a cloak for why they are good or why they are bad. You take people one at a time.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  6. Byrd

    Voltaire once said that if god didn't exist it would be necessary to create him. So if you're listening to someone claiming to be god, in all likelihood you're listening to the old wrathful version – and look what an unmitigated mess he made of things- and not the unfinished version who will take us forward into the next Age of Man.

    One thing we do know is that right now all of the galaxies in the Universe are flying apart from each other, so this current god is also apparently unable to hold everything together. Perhaps I can give him or her a hand with that....

    April 30, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • BobbyGB

      "A witty phrase proves nothing." – Voltaire

      April 30, 2012 at 8:33 am |
  7. Christopher

    More nonsense masquerading as news. Come on news services you're better than this. This kind of fairy tale stuff has no place in the 21st century.

    April 30, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      this belongs in the Lindsey Lohan section. such stories have similar value.

      April 30, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • Worgen Freeman

      God sounds like Morgan Freeman, duh.

      April 30, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • JustEric

      This is in the blog section. It's not masquerading as anything. It's a blog post. If you get your news from blogs, then I'm starting to get a clearer picture of what's wrong with this country today.

      On the plus side, you get an A+ for failing at life. Something to be proud of...I guess.

      April 30, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  8. 5thApe

    Zeus talks to me all the time as well. (insert wise crack here). Come on people, stop the delusion!

    When you understand why you reject all other gods, you will understand why I reject yours.... Think about it.

    April 30, 2012 at 8:12 am |
  9. Tai

    ummmm, what does not making it through bot camp have to do with whether or not James Earl Jones' voice sounds like God? I don't think any of the other men on the list did either, but they are still in te running. I am a christian as well, but this lady scares me. No tv because you are a christian. ummmm, ok

    April 30, 2012 at 8:09 am |
  10. CapnKirk

    MR. Spock was not half-mother and half-father

    April 30, 2012 at 7:59 am |
  11. Arlen Cooper

    God is the voice of all, who believe in him. Those who don't believe, have no voice.

    April 30, 2012 at 7:48 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      sounds like you'd be a good match for the nutjob woman who wrote the article. she's probably on Christian Singles dot com – check there.

      April 30, 2012 at 7:51 am |
    • Jeanine

      @Arlen
      Do you have any proof that what you say is correct? No. I know you don't because I know your "god" does not exist.

      April 30, 2012 at 8:07 am |
  12. Evat

    What the hell!? Why isn't Norio Wakamoto's voice included in this list?

    April 30, 2012 at 7:47 am |
  13. Robert

    Wow, talk about shared delusions LOL

    April 30, 2012 at 7:36 am |
    • Sigmund Freud

      Schizophrenia is acceptable if enough people share the delusion.

      April 30, 2012 at 7:41 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      christians just don't realize they're in a cult, like any other. when a cult becomes accepted by a society, it's called a religion. when there's no more cult members to worship the deity/deities, a religion becomes a mythology.

      cult members never think they are in a "cult". they always think they're part of a religion. christianity is no different.

      April 30, 2012 at 7:48 am |
  14. Reality

    HEAR YE ! HEAR YE ! HEAR YE ! said the gods of rational thinking:

    ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS

    The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen
    (References used are available upon request.)
    7777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777

    April 30, 2012 at 7:34 am |
  15. God Sings! Not Available In Any Store!

    From Karen Spears Zacharias: "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."

    And here is the hymn God will be singing:

    "I'm gonna boil up up in my burning Lake Of Fire
    You failed me again, you lousy sand-scrunching liar
    Gonna torture you for all eternity
    It's pain for you but fun for me
    You really failed when you said I sound like Pee-Wee
    So you'll torch and pop and crackle for all to see
    You made that picture of James Earl Jones white
    Your gonna suffer, because that's not right
    If you wanna know how I sound, heres a sign
    You better really like Frans Drescher's whine"

    Available on 8-track and reel-to-reel. Operators are standing by.

    April 30, 2012 at 7:32 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      very nice. big points for creativity.

      April 30, 2012 at 7:42 am |
    • Jeanine

      I like it, too.
      Can you do the theme from "Beverly Hillbillies"?
      Thanks in advance. I'd do it but I'm not feeling like it right now.

      April 30, 2012 at 8:00 am |
    • Byrd

      Excellent post!

      April 30, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • NonAtheist

      If that's what you think God would say, then I understand why atheism might appeal to you.

      April 30, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  16. Bootyfunk

    can you imagine if you went on a blind date and it turned out to be the woman who wrote this garbage? that creeeeepy blank eyed stare all the way through dinner?

    "did i tell you i'm writing a new piece for CNN? it's called, 'what kind of toilet paper would Gawd use to wipe his @ss? i think it's Charmin.'"
    "i'll be right back. i have to use the restroom." --> exit quietly out the back door and run ruuun ruuuuun!

    April 30, 2012 at 7:30 am |
  17. sick of republican phonies

    This is a parody piece, right? Poking gentle fun at people that supposedly have a 2-way conversation with "God", isn't it? Please don't tell me this woman is serious.

    April 30, 2012 at 7:22 am |
    • Jeanine

      um...

      April 30, 2012 at 7:30 am |
  18. Dr Jones

    Spock ad Yoda are fictional characters. Why can't God have a voice of her own? I'm not sure I understand the point of this column. Maybe it's about a pop-culture God.

    April 30, 2012 at 7:18 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      no, it's just CNN pandering to the Christians. business as usual.

      April 30, 2012 at 7:31 am |
    • Alyssa

      God is a fictional character too.

      April 30, 2012 at 7:54 am |
  19. Jesus was a space alien

    What does God sound like....the sound of silence. If you hear auditory hallucinations seek help.

    April 30, 2012 at 6:51 am |
    • Mirosal

      And the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, and tenement halls.

      April 30, 2012 at 6:53 am |
    • Ting

      Mirosal

      That's a different spirit.

      April 30, 2012 at 6:55 am |
  20. Ting

    Do you think God ever talks to himself?

    April 30, 2012 at 6:49 am |
    • Mirosal

      Now THAT is a very good philosophical question. Remember, philosophy is all about the questions you may never find answers to. Religion is all about their answers that you may NEVER question.

      April 30, 2012 at 6:54 am |
    • God

      Damn right I do! I grumble about all the weirdos and freaks my good-for-nothing son has been bringing over. Heaven is a wreck! His friends are creeps and losers! I have got to get them the fuck out of here! They are driving me crazy!! They have me so stressed out that I keep blowing it and making people like Fred Phelps, and I bungled the whole Deep South!

      This has to stop!

      I tried getting Jesus into rehab, but he just hooked up with Lindsey Lohan.

      April 30, 2012 at 6:56 am |
    • Ting

      Perhaps God berates himself from time to time? God looks into mirror, "You idiot! You knew that flood was a bad idea! What were you thinking?!"

      April 30, 2012 at 6:57 am |
    • God

      If I am so perfect, why do my groupies all totally suck?

      April 30, 2012 at 7:01 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      hey Ting, did you know God put rainbows in the sky to help remind him that he said he wouldn't drown everyone on the planet again? fun facts.

      April 30, 2012 at 7:02 am |
    • God

      Well, I don't have any nmemonics like rainbows for asteroid hitting the earth or super pandemic annihilation, so I still have my options open.

      April 30, 2012 at 7:05 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      @Mirosal,

      Thanks for that one. One of my favorites.

      April 30, 2012 at 7:07 am |
    • Nii

      Let me see! Calling Christians groupies who suck is ex hominem right? Let the next stupid atheist complain when I point out their foolishness!

      April 30, 2012 at 7:08 am |
    • Andrei

      Obviously you've never read the bible. Jesus talked to his Father when he was on Earth. and he promised that he'd send holy spirit when he got to heaven. and according to the bible Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one.

      April 30, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      Nii = FAIL

      April 30, 2012 at 7:12 am |
    • Say what?

      ex hominem? Out of the man?

      April 30, 2012 at 7:14 am |
    • Ting

      "hey Ting, did you know God put rainbows in the sky to help remind him that he said he wouldn't drown everyone on the planet again? fun facts."

      See I always thought it was a diversion. God saw that Noah was having a hard time explaining to his family why God killed innocent children. "I hear what you're saying uncle Noah, but I just don't understand why God would.....oooooh pretty colors...."

      April 30, 2012 at 7:16 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      hey Ting, did you know that God lost a wrestling match with Jacob? guess no WWF career for the "almighty."

      April 30, 2012 at 7:23 am |
    • Makes you wonder.

      Jesus got mad at a fig tree.

      April 30, 2012 at 7:39 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      he also killed 2000 pigs. oink oink!

      April 30, 2012 at 7:43 am |
    • Ting

      hey Ting, did you know that God lost a wrestling match with Jacob? guess no WWF career for the "almighty."

      Yes, but he did win a $2 bet with the devil. Job lost his entire family in the process, but hey that's the price of gambling amongst friends.

      April 30, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      hey Ting, did you know God doesn't like people who were the victim of a testicle crushing accident?
      Deuteronomy 23:1
      “A man whose testicles have been crushed, or whose penis has been cut off, must not be admitted to the congregation of Yahweh.”

      April 30, 2012 at 7:56 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      i agree, Ting. God made the Devil look like a fool when he won that bet. the Devil... what a loser.

      did you know God hates people born with physical disabilities? hunchbacks and people missing limbs, look out. midgets and the blind, too. and people with eczema. and, as mentioned above, people with crushed testicles.
      Leviticus 21:17-23
      “Speak to Aaron, saying, None of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God. For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles. No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the Lord's food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. ...

      does that mean the star of Willow isn't going to heaven?

      April 30, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      "Nii = FAIL"

      Of course Nii fail's, that why he is in seminary and not a real course of study....you know something useful like accounting or science (not pseudo christian science that he believes in) or ditch digging (more useful than the fairy tales he is studying) or computer technology.

      April 30, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • HellBent

      No only does god talk to himself, he even keeps secrets from himself. How else would the father know things that the son does not? So, god could sound like all of the people/characters mentioned in the article since god obviously suffers from multiple personality disorder

      April 30, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • sam stone

      "If I am so perfect, why do my groupies all totally suck?"

      That's what groupies do

      April 30, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • sam stone

      Nii: Go ahead and point out atheist's "foolishness". I will point out your bigotry. We got a deal?

      April 30, 2012 at 9:55 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.