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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. Rational Libertarian

    I really can't tell if this article is satirical or the ramblings of a psychopath.

    April 30, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Max Powers

      I think you are lying.

      April 30, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  2. Rational Libertarian

    I really can't tell if this article is facetious or the ramblings of a psychopath.

    April 30, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  3. Rational Libertarian

    I really can't tell if this article is facetious or the ramblings of a maniac.

    April 30, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  4. Bob Lewis

    God's trying desperately to speak with us all the time, we've just chosen not to listen. The voice is in the silence, not in the incessant noise we call our thoughts. How do you hear Him? The instruction manual has been around a few thousand years. Simply, "Be still and know that I am God." What is He? "I am that I am." He's right here, hiding as everything.

    April 30, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • just sayin

      Wow, reread what you posted and think about it. You are one of those scary people out there,

      April 30, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Hitchens

      It appears to be another fraudulent just sayin post

      April 30, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • One one

      That makes no sense. If god can do anything, and he wants Us to hear him, he should just come right out and say it ! Instead all we get is hooky testimonials of people claiming they hear god speaking to them. No one else hears it.

      So what is the most likely scenario? The magic creator of the universe is speaking to a few people privately? OR, everything these people are "hearing" is simply conjured up in their own minds.

      April 30, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  5. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    Bender, definately Bender...

    April 30, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  6. Robert Hagedorn

    Google First Scandal;.

    April 30, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  7. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things..

    April 30, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Jesus

      You're a proven liar. Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!*!,

      April 30, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  8. Atheist Hunter

    Wow! It's an atheist nest! Spending their lives on this blog bashing a God they don't believe in. Imagine that!

    April 30, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • ....

      "Spending their lives on this blog bashing a God "

      Spending your life on this blog bashing a Atheists. How's that log doing in your eye?

      April 30, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • One one

      Well, you know, sacred cows make the best hamburger.

      April 30, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  9. just sayin

    My God sounds like Daffy Duck. I hear him when I run around in my Jesus diapers and jump up and hang on a pole with my arms outstretched to recieve the love of my lord. God Bless

    April 30, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  10. Dave Bradshaw

    My imaginary voice claims she is god, and says all those male voices are really Satan pretending to be her. So I asked her, "Is someone crazy if they claim to hear imaginary voices?" She answered, "Usually they are liars claiming to be religious." So I asked her, "Is someone crazy if they actually hear imaginary voices?" She said, "They certainly are crazy".

    April 30, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  11. Nii

    This emotional maturity allows us to live ethical n fulfilled lives in this life n allows us in2 His Presence after Judgement.
    What can you do?
    Well I meditate by worrying over
    I love God with all my life
    I love myself
    n
    I love my neighbor as myself
    cos God loves us all His Life.
    You can seek urs.

    April 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • sam stone

      "I love my neighbor as myself"

      Yet you want them to have lesser rights than you. How fvcking loving of you

      April 30, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Nii

      If marriage was a right everyone could demand that the state funds their wedding. I don't think priviledges are rights. If you use the word 'rights' for a priviledge it is an attempt to demean the hard fought rights that we have fought to preserve for posterity. I love gays as myself.

      April 30, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • sam stone

      smokescreen there, Nii: who is suggesting anyone "fund" anyone else's marriage? equal protection under the law is a RIGHT (check the 4th amendment). you remain a bigot.

      April 30, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Nii

      Yes so why does Obama alone get to use the Secret Service?

      April 30, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • sam stone

      Nii: First of all, he is president. Secondly, it is not him alone that gets Secret Service protection. His family does, as do othes running for president. If someone were to deny another otherwise qualified citizen the ability to get married based on the color or their skin, or their eye color, would you consider THAT bigotry?

      April 30, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • sam stone

      Also, Nii: The state does not fund the weddings of straight people, so (yet again), your argument is invalid

      April 30, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • One one

      I don't believe you. No one loves everyone. If they did, they would be insane. I think you are claiming you love your neighbor only because your religion says that is what you are supposed to do and you are claiming to be a devout follower.

      April 30, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  12. kennyleonard

    God was talking to Andrea Yates, too. I live in San Diego, and God told a guy to sacrifice his son at a cemetery here recently, so he slashed his 8-year old son's forearms. God told a guy in San Bernardino to cut off his hand back in March. I wonder what pop culture figure "God" sounded like to those people. This article is disgusting and sick. This type of dialogue is shameful and has no place in modernity. I can't figure out why CNN would publish something like this. Karen, this desperate call for attention is pathetic, and this irresponsible article encourages a kind of thinking that is truly harmful to people.

    April 30, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Max Powers

      Yup!

      April 30, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  13. Marco

    My god sounds like.... nothing. I don't believe in imaginary friends since I was 5 years old

    April 30, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Tom's brother Perry

      Correction....God doesn't sound like anything to you.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  14. Nii

    Glad to see the atheist posse lying in wait for their victims. Sad waste of time.

    April 30, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • sam stone

      Nii: You are a bigot. Go have biblical knowledge of yourself, boy

      April 30, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Jeanine

      Aha!
      Gotcha!
      Reach for the sky you yellow-livered varmint!
      And no funny business! This is a fully loaded reply!

      April 30, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • A Chair To Your Face

      How long have you and Ray Comfort been banging each other?

      April 30, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Nii

      How beautiful are the feet of them that bring good tidings!

      April 30, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Nii

      Now you guys look closely at the reply to my comment. What is making you so angry. Anger does not encourage critical thinking! The surest antidote to this kind of anger is to love and respect the other person as yourself. Not that hard to do and makes u feel better and think better.

      April 30, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Nii

      Really sad to hear someone speak of Ray Comfort in such derogaatory terms. It proves however that he is doing something right. And He is right too. If you obey God's commands to accept Christ and be saved He grants u eternal life. Eternal life is not immortality but emotional maturity from God.

      April 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • sam stone

      Another arrogant bigot purporting to speak for god.

      April 30, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Nii

      SAM STONE
      BIBLE KNOWLEDGE 101
      Let these thoughts dominate your thinking
      I love God with all my life
      I love myself
      and
      I love my neighbor as myself
      because God loves us all as himself with all His Life.
      You will then understand the Bible. Even all your objections cannot defeat this. It does work!

      April 30, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Nii

      These things can even work for an Atheist. I hope you do try. As to me being an arrogant bigot your replies to my post are enough evidence against u not me. You can be happy with me or not. However I don't think I speak for God. I speak about Him. I don't think you do speak for HIM so relax.

      April 30, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Nii

      SAM STONE
      Sometimes you amaze me! Why wud I want my neighbor to have lesser rights. Rights are not leglislations. Rights are natural. Who do I want to have lesser rights anyways n don't tell me its gay marriage again. Its an American issue. If u ask me my opinion I'll give it but I've zero influence

      April 30, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • outOfTheBlue

      Nii,
      You just wrote:
      "because God loves us all as himself with all His Life."
      That sounds like you are speeking for God to me.

      April 30, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Nii

      How can you try to say I'm speaking for God because of a phrase? It is what I said it is. A thought. Not a speech. If you can think it I can't explain fully but it helps emotionally. Ok

      April 30, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • outOfTheBlue

      I sense back-peddling. You did write that ... and it was speaking for god. And that is arrogance. It just is.

      April 30, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Nii

      Back-peddling where? Also speaking for God is not wrong. If u want to you can too. Its free. In this instance I was telling you about God. If that in your opinion is speaking for God fine. If it is speaking for god then I just don't do that.

      April 30, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • outOfTheBlue

      Telling us what god thinks is speaking for god, Nii.

      April 30, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • max33333445555

      you sure do talk alot for someone that says nothing...

      April 30, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  15. 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.)
    888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888

    April 30, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Marco

      Even the carpenter part deserves some scrutiny: that part of the world was and still is notorious for it's lack of forests and trees. Only very rich people could afford importing wood.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Electric Larry

      The original word that has been adjusted to be "carpenter" actually meant "manual laborer." But "carpenter" sounds so craftsman-like and honorable, when in reality he was a rock-stacker.

      April 30, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Reality

      Not many NT passages pass rigorous, historic scrutiny. The following passages do.

      Mark 6:3

      3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,[a] Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

      Matt 13: 55

      55 Is not this the carpenter's son?

      Some NT translations use "craftsman" in place of "carpenter"

      For added details about the historic accuracy of the above, see Professor Gerd Ludemann's analysis and conclusions in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 38-40 and pp. 694-695.

      April 30, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  16. 1nd3p3nd3nt

    i think the author of "what does god sound like?" should read the "analytic thinking can decrease religious belief" piece.

    April 30, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Awful lot of syllables in those words you used. Can you translate?

      April 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  17. Duane Allen

    Wow... where to start on this nonsense. Karen, what I think you're assuming to be "God's" voice is just the product of talking to yourself and a cacophony of sounds echoing around in your empty cranium.

    April 30, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  18. politicallyinsurrect

    I don't even know who's replying to whom anymore. I love it when the origin of life and the universe can elicit such emotions from people and cause such controversy. I wonder if cosmologists burn each other at the stake and throw feces at each other while they're arguing over the mathematics of the "big bang."

    April 30, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • momoya

      Are you saying that people's words here are somehow "throwing feces" and "burning at the stake?".

      April 30, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      most definitely : )
      history is ripe with examples of other scientists not just ridiculing other scientists, but driving them out of the field altogether. Check out the 'plum pudding' atomic model. Or how geologists treated Alfred Wegener in regard to his theory of tectonic plates. for awhile people thought the planets' orbits had to circular, and the models for the planets looked ridiculous until they finally figured out that they were not circular but elliptical.

      humans are the same no matter where you go, the only thing science has going for it is that you can repeat the experiment. eventually it even turns skeptics into believers if they can see it for themselves again and again. When it comes to non-repeatable theory, you'll see the same type of behavior, a la poo throwing : )

      April 30, 2012 at 11:45 am |
      • politicallyinsurrect

        I'm well aware of all of those examples. I just don't see Einstein waging a crusade against Heisenberg. Good point though.

        April 30, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Good

      I always thought that scientific battles should be handled in a way that absolutely proves who is right, and would make for great television. In olden times, the winner of this contest was known to be right simply for having won. It is the answer.

      Jousting.

      Scientists on horseback, lots of armor and a long lance. Dark ever-expanding universe or Big Crunch? CLANG!!!! It's The Dark Knight of the Dark Universe!!

      Great television, better than NASCAR, Pepsi advertising on lab coats, and great shows from the Chaos Theory Cheerleaders!

      April 30, 2012 at 11:56 am |
      • politicallyinsurrect

        I challenge you to a duel, so I can prove without a shadow of a doubt, that the big bang was really god farting.

        April 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      lol, i think we should have a duel over which line is better to start a duel with:
      have at ye!
      or
      come at me bro!

      April 30, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Get It Right

      Here is the correct way to start a duel, according to the internationally revered "Barney Fife's Guide To Duelling"

      "I will count to ten. We both walk away from each other. When I reach ten, we will turn and shoot. Ready? One. Two. BANG! Three . . . did you want me to finish?

      April 30, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  19. Adam

    "God talks to me all the time."

    This woman is sick. She very well may have a brain tumor. If you hear voices in your head talking to you, you are unwell. Get this woman to a hospital, and get God out of her poor head!

    April 30, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  20. Mike

    outoftheblue-Crazy people like you just find so hard to believe in god don't know why.

    April 30, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • BRC

      It's kiond of hard to read that sentence and actually get teh meaning (I make a lot of typos when I'm typing quickly too so no worries, but some punctuation might have helped)- but if I understand your question correctly, the answer simple. there is no proof of gods, so there is no reason to believe in them. Makes it easy for us to not believe, while the questionable motives and condemable actions of many of the world's religions through history makes it hard for us to believe.

      April 30, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • outOfTheBlue

      @Mike,
      You can call me crazy. The proof is in what others think of your assesment. I am not afraid of my non-belief. I welcome intelectual challanges to this non-belief. It is what has led me to it in the first place!

      How about you?

      April 30, 2012 at 11:56 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.