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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. Welled

    Christians take this as an attack. I don't hate Christians. Look at it more as information. Maybe as people or someone who really "gets". Where that bible comes from. Once again its people with considerable resources. That have the means to put that kind of massive printing out. When you see things like turn the other cheek. Let them take your cloak then give them your pants. Be happy with what you have. Wait till the end the rich will get theres. By then its to late for you of course. You have to consider the fact there is purpose in the way it is written. Hey, some people believe in governments and what they say I haven't got much use for them either. After a thing like Iraq. They just turn their heads and keep right on believing.

    April 29, 2012 at 7:51 am |
  2. mattinacan

    i like to picture my God playing lead guitar at a Leonard Skinner concert, and i'm in the front row, and i'm hammered drunk

    April 29, 2012 at 7:50 am |
    • p4p

      I like to picture Jesus in a tuxedo T shirt, cause it says, like, “I wanna be formal, but I’m here to party, too.” Cause I like to party, so I like my Jesus to party.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:56 am |
  3. PAPilot

    Please, if you really are hearing voices, make an appointment with a Psychiatrist asap. Hearing voices is a symptom of a severe behavioral health disorder.

    God doesn't exist. He's a made up figure designed by ancient despots as a means to control people.

    April 29, 2012 at 7:50 am |
    • p4p

      all non-believers (aka.. democrats) should be whipped into christianity. it is the light, without question... back to the times of old, lol... who cares what the atheists believes... what do you care of my beliefs and who i believe in? voicing your opinions on here is pathetic... wait... i've just become one of you. i tell my kids what to believe in... and if i want their opinion, i'lll give it to them. they can think for themselves when they leave the house and support themselves (without the obama bucks, lol)... also, word of advice... SHADDAP!!!!

      April 29, 2012 at 7:54 am |
  4. Canadian Jack

    God whispers. God has neither voice of man or woman. God created joy in all mammalian life. No mechanical process could give a tinkers damn about joy. Joy is a gift from a beneficent creator. It matter not whether you worship God.
    All that is require of you on this earth is to walk humbly in justice with love in your heart for all creation.

    April 29, 2012 at 7:47 am |
    • John

      Jack, I imagine joy is a level of thinking that could evolve mechanically; we also are able to truly CREATE, in that our ideas can make matter and/or energy go where they could not possibly go on their own because it breaks their rules. That we write these thoughts to each other proves that. That said, I'm with you-all that matters is we love (appreciate) everything we experience, even what we find hard to approve of.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:57 am |
    • lolzz

      what the... why you put "Canadian" in your name is beyond me. The fact that you believe this tripe more than enough to show you're a disgrace to Canada. Try taking Canadian out, and sticking "-off" on the end.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  5. Jesus

    The voice of God sounds like the still silence of a Universe that has reached maximum entropy. For eternity, it will rest in a silent expanse. We all live in the exceptional, but temporary period of thermodynamic activity.

    April 29, 2012 at 7:47 am |
    • lolzz

      Wow Jesus posts on CNN. Cool story bro.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  6. skeeve

    Interesting, when you hear Alexander the Great or Napoleon talking to you Christians call you insane... it is fine, however to hear the voice of a god.....

    April 29, 2012 at 7:47 am |
  7. Dave

    WOW....this woman's a real whack job.

    April 29, 2012 at 7:46 am |
  8. Welled

    Like I say I'm a semite not a Hebrew. Deal is there are 9 other semetic peoples. They are never talked about. A lot of them like playing the "Hey we are Gods choosen people" game for cash and prizes. nothing to mention just more on the gullibility of people and what they don't know or more rather what they aren't told.

    April 29, 2012 at 7:44 am |
  9. j.

    wow!!! what an uplifting article for a Sunday morning. Great job Karen. I much agreed with you, that's exactly how i hear God.
    Thru a small children, beautiful blue eye women and morning's sounds. Bye

    April 29, 2012 at 7:43 am |
  10. p4p

    all non-believers (aka.. democrats) should be whipped into christianity. it is the light, without question... back to the times of old, lol... who cares what the atheists believes... what do you care of my beliefs and who i believe in? voicing your opinions on here is pathetic... wait... i've just become one of you. i tell my kids what to believe in... and if i want their opinion, i'lll give it to them. they can think for themselves when they leave the house and support themselves (without the obama bucks, lol)... also, word of advice... SHADDAP!!!!

    April 29, 2012 at 7:43 am |
  11. Anonymous Joe

    Like the next door neighbor's dog, Sam, that keeps commanding me to "kill, kill, kill"

    April 29, 2012 at 7:42 am |
  12. Paul

    Please lady next time you talk to GOD ask him if he really hates all the stuff the relegious nuts say he does and if he does why don't he just fix it????

    April 29, 2012 at 7:42 am |
  13. Anonymous Joe

    W.C. Fields

    April 29, 2012 at 7:40 am |
  14. Reality

    HEAR YE ! HEAR YE ! HEAR YE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    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.)

    April 29, 2012 at 7:39 am |
    • mattinacan

      ...not sure if serious, or just drunk

      April 29, 2012 at 7:53 am |
    • lolzz

      request? here's a request for you: see a psychiatrist.

      April 29, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Reality

      Only for the those interested in a religious update:

      1. origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

      “New Torah For Modern Minds

      Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine docu-ment. “

      prob•a•bly
      Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.

      2. Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

      The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.

      earlychristianwritings.com/theories.html

      For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

      Current RCC problems:

      Pedophiliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

      2 b., Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

      Current problems:
      Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,

      3. Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added "angels" and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers.

      This agenda continues as shown by the ma-ssacre in Mumbai, the as-sas-sinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, the Ft. Hood follower of the koran, and the Filipino “koranics”.

      And who funds this muck and stench of terror? The warmongering, Islamic, Shiite terror and torture theocracy of Iran aka the Third Axis of Evil and also the Sunni "Wannabees" of Saudi Arabia.

      Current crises:

      The Sunni-Shiite blood feud and the warmongering, womanizing (11 wives), hallucinating founder.

      4. Hinduism (from an online Hindu site) – "Hinduism cannot be described as an organized religion. It is not founded by any individual. Hinduism is God centered and therefore one can call Hinduism as founded by God, because the answer to the question ‘Who is behind the eternal principles and who makes them work?’ will have to be ‘Cosmic power, Divine power, God’."

      The caste/laborer system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence are problems when saying a fair and rational God founded Hinduism."

      Current problems:

      The caste system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence.

      5. Buddhism- "Buddhism began in India about 500 years before the birth of Christ. The people living at that time had become disillusioned with certain beliefs of Hinduism including the caste system, which had grown extremely complex. The number of outcasts (those who did not belong to any particular caste) was continuing to grow."

      "However, in Buddhism, like so many other religions, fanciful stories arose concerning events in the life of the founder, Siddhartha Gautama (fifth century B.C.):"

      Archaeological discoveries have proved, beyond a doubt, his historical character, but apart from the legends we know very little about the circu-mstances of his life. e.g. Buddha by one legend was supposedly talking when he came out of his mother's womb.

      Bottom line: There are many good ways of living but be aware of the hallucinations, embellishments, lies, and myths surrounding the founders and foundations of said rules of life.

      Then, apply the Five F rule: "First Find the Flaws, then Fix the Foundations". And finally there will be religious peace and religious awareness in the world

      April 29, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  15. jim5k

    I'm a doubting Thomas – prove it.

    April 29, 2012 at 7:38 am |
  16. Welled

    Christians are taught to hate the earth and everything in it. To practice self-denial. To let everyone that wishes to that isn't gullible enough to believe christianty steal everything that isn't nailed down while the Christian happily goes to work to accept being ripped off. You just might consider whoever commisoned that bible has considerable resources and wants a pacified work force that won't even consider overthrowing the government that protects them so they can stay fat and happy.

    April 29, 2012 at 7:38 am |
    • Cherie

      As a Christian, I can tell you that I was never taught to hate the earth or everything in it. On the contrary, when I finally turned back to Christ Jesus, I learned that His love for me is unconditional and that all His creation is a blessing. He has always given us free will and thence comes poor choices (in which he gives his forgiveness when we truly repent and change our ways). We are not stupid door mats that "accept being ripped off". Our personal walks with Christ give us the opportunities to deal with situations in a way that is not evil but is effective. Do yourself a favor, instead of bashing what belief and the Bible truly is, take the time to learn (not just read) what the Bible tells us. You will be amazed at the trueness of it and you will see that being complacent is not what God wants for us at all.
      You sound like an intelligent person, so please take the time to research what you are bashing before you put a specific group of people into a category that may only serve the purpose of making you feel superior.

      April 29, 2012 at 8:06 am |
  17. science man

    If God talks to you, call a doctor quick. You probably suffer from schizophrenia.

    April 29, 2012 at 7:37 am |
  18. Mirosal

    The voice of "god" would sound exactly like someone who speaks Braille 🙂

    April 29, 2012 at 7:36 am |
  19. AckMon

    He sounds like Curly of the Three Stooges to me. Not sure I want to look into what that means psychologically for me. He keeps saying "Moe, Larry, cheese, Moe, Larry, cheese" and then tells me I should eat better and exercise.

    April 29, 2012 at 7:35 am |
  20. Ted

    That's the most ridiculous article I have ever read.Really CNN?

    April 29, 2012 at 7:35 am |
    • OfCourse

      Of course it's from US.

      April 29, 2012 at 7:44 am |
    • Shepherd

      Not only is it rediculous, it's downright scary!

      April 29, 2012 at 8:27 am |
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