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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. LL72

    Very fun article! I love Prairie Home Companion. If there was ever an all-knowing, soothing voice to listen for, it's Garrison's. 😀

    April 30, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • rob

      And thank the GOOD LORD Mrs. Henery does not listen to that WICKED Pat Robinson of the $7,000000 club Who has done nothing but robbed his WEAK & FOOLISH SHEEP in the name of a God that he and other televangelist have made int heir own image! I personally like to think of a God voice from someone like Bob Abernathy (Religion & Ethics) or T.D Jakes

      April 30, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • rob

      rob

      And thank the GOOD LORD Mrs. Henery does not listen to that WICKED Pat Robinson of the $7,000000 club Who has done nothing but robbed his WEAK & FOOLISH SHEEP in the name of a God that he and other televangelist have made in their own image! I personally like to think of a God voice from someone like Bob Abernathy (Religion & Ethics) or T.D Jakes

      April 30, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  2. jdub87

    God is telling me you all are wrong and that further worshiping Him is against his point of creating us. Yes, He said that...

    April 30, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  3. Magic Jew

    Perhaps we should ask all the children in third world countries what their god sounds like when he responds to their desperate pleas for food with "No."

    April 30, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • Postal

      He doesn't answer "No". He says "I've told all of these other people all over the world that are throwing food away every day to help you guys out, but they just won't listen..."

      April 30, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Nah

      Nah, postal, he doesn't say anything. He doesn't exist.

      April 30, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Primewonk

      @ Postal – You'd think an omnipotent omniscient god would have been bright enough not to create people where there is no food.

      April 30, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  4. Tim

    God sounds just like Roseanne Barr.

    April 30, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  5. Justin

    In the medical field when you hear voices they call it schizophrenia...

    April 30, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • JT

      In religion hearing voices is respected and admired.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • Primewonk

      @ JT – Then why do the fundiots scream for the death of those who hear god's commands to kill their kids?

      April 30, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • *facepalm*

      "In religion hearing voices is respected and admired."

      Unless its a person of a different faith hearing the voices – like a Hindu or a muslim or anyone in the tens of thousands of other denominations of xtianity.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  6. amg

    I hope His voice sounds like James Earl Jones. He is the voice of Mufasa and the voice of Darth Vader.

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

      "The Farce is strong with this one"

      April 30, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • AGuest9

      "It is they bidding, my master."

      April 30, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  7. Rob

    I find that God is speaking to me all the time. Most of the time I am not listening. If you keep you focus on God, you can hear him speaking to you in everything, music, friends, books, ect.

    April 30, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Only because you first presuppose God's existence. I can appreciate beauty, art, friendship etc. without the need of invoking a god. You are conflating two separate things.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Mirosal

      One can appreciate the beauty of a forest or prairie without having to believe in fairies who keep it watered.

      April 30, 2012 at 10:01 am |
  8. nitrous

    Jesus H. Christ! THERE IS NO GOD! Deal with it!

    April 30, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Rob

      Everyone doesn't share your beliefs. Deal with that...

      April 30, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • LL72

      Are you a fanatic? You sound like the atheist equivilent to someone who yells "Allahu Akbar!" in the middle of someone's quiet Sabbath dinner. Is it OK with you if someone doesn't share your beliefs or lack thereof? Or are you as much of an intollerant biggot as any fundamentalist? Hmmmm.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Russell

      You can't prove a negative. I think what you may be against is the myriad misinterpretations and misuse of religious teachings. If there is a God that loves us and forgives us for our sins and wants peace between us, would you be against that? But with religious people committing so many sins in God's name, it's no wonder people get turned off to religion.

      April 30, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  9. Michael

    Morgan Freeman. That's all I need to say

    April 30, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  10. 3vix6

    I can imagine God's voice sounding like "Big Gay Al" from Southpark.

    April 30, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • LL72

      "Big Gay Al" is actually not too far out there. 🙂 He's humble, self-deprecating, loving, compassionate and tolerant. He's also one heck of a scout master! I could look past the lisp to listen to his words of wisdom. Yes, I just did an in-depth character analysis on a South Park character, which is a sure sign I'm avoiding homework at this point.

      April 30, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • Nah

      "He's humble, self-deprecating, loving, compassionate and tolerant." -in other words, the exact opposite of Christian god, who instructs us to murder and torture in the bible, and then threatens us with torture in flame forever if we don't believe in him or get any thing else wrong in our short lives on earth.

      No thanks. You can keep your awful god. To yourself, silently please.

      April 30, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  11. John Bauer

    ...religion is opportunistic, insidious,showing its ugly head...when man is down...

    April 30, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Yep, that explains why AA and NA are supported by the church...addicts at their lowest point need something to grasp on to sadly for fear that they'll turn to their old habits.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • Rob

      No they are supported because they are in need. They are not the only organizations supported by churches.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Rob: I didn't say they were the only organizations supported by the church, however they are two of the most prominent ones that play upon a person when they are down and out. You can get that same support through secular organizations though without the need for a god to be shoved down your throat. There are numerous secular charities and organizations that do just as much, if not more, than churches do without expecting something in return.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  12. Trinka

    My God sounds like Al Green.

    April 30, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  13. John Bauer

    Religion is opportunistic...appealing to the lowest common denominator...

    April 30, 2012 at 9:17 am |
  14. Vidyashanti

    GOD SPEAKS TO EVERYONE IN THEIR OWN VOICE. THAT WHAT WE CALL 'CONSCIENCE'. THOSE WHO LISTEN TO THEIR INNER VOICE ENJOY LIFE AND ARE FEARLESS. OTHERS WHO CLAIMED TO HAVE HEARD VOICE FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE NEED TO SEE A DOCTOR. THEY USUALLY MISGUIDE INNOCENT FOLLOWERS.

    April 30, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      You are deluded. You're also not very bright, or you are obnoxious. Use your caps lock key.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • Rob

      Who are you to know what God sounds like to anyone else, or how he talks to anyone else. So full of your self.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  15. Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

    Lady, if you hear voices in your head, you are mentally ill. Your fantasy rabbit/god does not exist.

    April 30, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • 1221

      Jimmy Joe Jim Bob: I notice you've commented on almost everyones post that has some form of belief in the creator. As antagonistic as your post are, I'd say you are trying to convince yourself out of your own insecurities. Good luck with that.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      Keep telling yourself that. It is you who are convincing yourself every minute of every day that your mythical comic book hero exists. You are delusional.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Rob

      You would know about being mentally ill Jimmy Joe Jim Bob.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  16. politicallyinsurrect

    God sounds like Barry White. And he tells me to kill. Why question authority, especially the highest..

    April 30, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • GodsPeople

      God would not tell us to kill. Actually, He tells us to turn the other cheek 777 times 7 times. While that is frequently difficult, it's also what we are supposed to do. I have an incredibly violent nature, and it's harder than you can imagine, but I do it frequently.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      "God would not tell us to kill. "

      Unless it's in the bible, which it is. Plenty of times. I won't count them, but it's a lot.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      @Godspeople: Really? So your god didn't order the massive flood that killed all but a few? I thought you believed that the buybull was the word of god? In that case your god is an evil murderous dictator. Obviously you only know what you hear from sitting in the pews every week and not from actually having read the buybull.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Primewonk

      GodsPeople wrote, " God would not tell us to kill."

      This, of course, is a lie. Your god commands that you kill many people. For example:

      Leviticus 20:13 If a man has se.xual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death

      April 30, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Nii

      I always find it funny when anti-theists and hatheists masquerade as Atheists. The Europeans understand Atheism more and it helps them deal with their emotional issues. Learn more aabout Atheism. Don't just behave like an Evangelical who has been excommunicated by his church.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Nii: And we always find it funny when Theists claim to know what an Atheist is actually about...99.9% of the time you have it wrong. All Atheists means is a disbelief in god(s), nothing more. We don't hate your god, we simply don't believe your god exists or ever existed. Hate is a powerful word that we don't use often, it is another term christians use to describe us...so the shoe now goes on the other foot and it is christians who come across as being hateful.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • GodsPeople

      @JJJB: There's a lot of missing context, too. Please learn how to research before making yourself look stupid.

      @Lies: Yes, God did flood the fertile crescent area, which was their world. Whether or not He flooded the actual world is debatable, and is something I research on occasion. I honestly believe they thought that area was the entire world those many centuries ago, so they wrote it was the world.

      @PrimeWonk: Every culture has laws. Certain things are not natural. Their tree bears no fruit. God says no. I can post all sorts of Truth but you don't care about Truth, just liberalized lies.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • Rob

      TruthPrevails 🙂
      You speak for all athiests?

      April 30, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • Nii

      TP
      As you care to use dictionary definitions for Atheist, i will advise that you just do a full days research into atheism and what it means to be an atheist. usually it is the new kids on the block who insult others. If u claim u don't believe in a god that is fine but don't take insult others.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      @Godsretard: Wow, how stupid can one truly be? A flood that mas.sive is impossible to have happened...science has proven that and science provides more answers than your 2000 year old book of fiction and horror. You can say I'm lying all you wish but yet I live in the 21st century and you don't. You opt to support a book that has never been updated. You can't argue with science, it provides evidence. You are the one lying because you're too lazy to find the real answers.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Nii: we have already proven that you are not to be trusted for your opinion.

      Rob: Didn't say that, did I? However, it is well known that Atheists don't tend to show hatred as much as christards. I understand that reality and facts scare you but that is your issue not the issue of people who live in the 21st century and in accordance with the updated evidence science provides us.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • *facepalm*

      I love the missing context argument. xtians throw it out there for any inconvenient passage, and yet always seem to fail to provide context of their own. It's an intellectually lazy and cowardly argument.

      April 30, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Primewonk

      GodsPeople wrote, " @PrimeWonk: Every culture has laws. Certain things are not natural. Their tree bears no fruit. God says no. I can post all sorts of Truth but you don't care about Truth, just liberalized lies."

      This is what we call moving the goalposts.

      You stated originally that, "God would not tell us to kill". I then pointed out that you were lying, and your god, in fact, does tell you fundiots to kill. I gave you the verse from Leviticus where your god commands you to kill gay folks.

      You ignored that, and went on a mini rant with more lies, this time about gay folks. You claimed it wasn't natural. Yet, ho.mose.xuality occurs across nature – 1500+ species so far – thus it is natural. You then rambled on about them "bearing no fruit". Apparently your ignorance about the science of orientation makes you think that being gay means you are sterile.

      Why do you fundiots lie? Do you think it is pleasing to your god?

      April 30, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • Nii

      TP
      The main dictionary thing got to u right? Don't worry dictionaries sort of lend themselves to simplistic thinking!

      April 30, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Nii: Unlike you I know what a dictionary is used for and do not make up definitions. You are in seminary remember?? So your opinion of reality lacks and your definitions lack more. You defined awhile ago as being wrong (sinful in your terms) unless it is between two women (as you stated, with women there is no penetration, therefore they are not sinning), so quite obviously you have your own own definitions screwed up.

      April 30, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      should have read "you defined gay awhile ago as being..."

      April 30, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  17. GodsPeople

    God speaks to all of us in one way or another. Usually it's through that nagging voice in the back of your head that says, "wait, this isn't right" or "okay, this is good work."

    April 30, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      i agree, God's a nag.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      Another delusionist. That voice in your head is YOU.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • your god is irreducibly complex

      That voice is your own brain making decisions.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      @Godspeople: Hearing voices is better known as schizophrenia...time for you to seek mental health help.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • GodsPeople

      *shakes head* I'm more sane than you. I admit I can't handle everything on my own and seek His help and guidance willingly.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      More sane? No, I don't hear voices ole delusional one. What you suffer from is not sanity but insanity. I don't need a non-existent deity to help me through tough times, I have my husband-AtheistSteve and some good friends to turn to. You must live a pathetically boring life if you have to turn to the voices in your head for help to get through things. Your belief makes you lazy.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Mirosal

      If you NEED the help of a deity to get you through the day, there are some deeper issues you need to deal with. Try asking the Oracle at Delphi ... you'll get the same results.

      April 30, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  18. Tim

    My grandmother figured it out a long time ago. It's that small still voice – that same voice most of us spend a lifetime avoiding.

    April 30, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • sybaris

      Your grandmother was wrong, sorry.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Trinka

      Do you mean a conscience? A moral compass? Wait...it's called rational thinking.

      April 30, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  19. JoeVT

    Most people today never put them selves in a position to listen to or hear God. God won't scream for your attention, so if you never get a quiet time because you are too much into your facebook, texting, smartphone etc etc you will never hear anything. I think most often God will speak through your conscience... people don't want to be bothered by that either.

    I find it interesting that statement God sounds like your father. My Dad gardened, it is the thing I still do and there in the garden I hear him (not Him). There are so many times I swear if i turn around quickly enough I would see him there. 20 years after his passing it is very comforting.

    April 30, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      Imaginary friends do not speak to you, unless you are mentally ill.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Rob

      Go back to the cabin and start sipping the moonshine Jimmy Joe Bob. You can't speak to what others see and hear.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      @Rob: No, in the opinion of most rational minded people Jim is right. There is no proof that god exists or is anything more than imaginary. Replace every 'god' with 'Zeus' or 'Odin' or 'Santa' and then say that what JoeVT said makes sense.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  20. 1221

    What does the G.A.O.T.U. sound like? The sounds of the Universe and quantum physics. Cosmic winds that continue the voice of creation.

    April 30, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • WrshipWarior

      G.A.O.T.U. is none other than Lucifer, a created being, worshipped since the ancient Egyptians and also by the Freemasons.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • Rob

      Freemasons don't worship Lucifer.

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

      Freemasonry is not Christian. It is deception. The G.A.O.T.U. is not the Great I AM, Elohim, or Jehovah. Do some research. There is plenty of material out there today that exposes the demonic origins of freemasonry and how they've seduced and deceived the Church for centuries. Sounds a lot like what took place in a Garden a very long time ago...

      April 30, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • 1221

      WrshipWarior: Based on your reference of YHWH (יהוה) as Jehovah, which is a transliteration; I would say it is you who has not fully researched the material that is abundantly available. I am assuming by your reference of Jehovah, that you are a Jehovah's Witness. That is fine, I will not knock your personal beliefs. However, I will ask you a question to ponder, Is it not true the your faith believes that only 144,000 souls will enter the kingdom of Heaven? Seems like your efforts to recruit more souls could be reducing your percentage chances of entering? I would not be so judgmental of others myself.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • WrshipWarior

      I am not a Jehova's Witness.

      April 30, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • 1221

      Fair enough. I just happen to believe that G_d did create all things. The reference of Great Architect which built all things on the principles of mathematics has given the reasoned mind the ability to understand his great works. I happen to believe that quantum physics are real too and are a means of understanding the reality we perceive. If you think me a devil worshipper for it, than so be it. I'll stand before him at judgement, not you.

      April 30, 2012 at 10:05 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.