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 (allegedly) 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.” (Is this for real? This person got printed at CNN? What's happening?)
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.
Here's the problem with God speaking to people: 1. How can you tell the difference between an actual transmission from a diety and your own brain making you THINK you are getting a transmission from a diety? 2. Do you mean actual audible sound waves impinging on your ears? If so, why can't someone standing next to you hear him too? 3. Of course hearing happens in the brain so God skips the ear part and goes right to the part of the brain that interprets information from our ears. But like all of this stuff. . . how does it work? Is it REAL? Now, back to the fun . . .
Certainly God knows I’m an auditory learner, so if he wants my attention he has to talk to me. How do you know what God knows? When God speaks to me, he sounds a lot like Garrison Keillor, (uh oh. . .) 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 (and get paid???) 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. Doesn't this support the idea that God is a figment of your imagination and your indoctrination as a child. Why wouldn't a real being appear and sound the same to everyone?
When my husband and I were raising our children, we banned television from our household. (Child ABUSE!)"A Prairie Home Companion" (Actual child torture!!) 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. Oh sure, this all seems completely natural . . .
Many people don’t even speak to God, much less listen to what he has to say. (Because we're not crazy.) 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 (What, not sure?) 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.
Anyone who thinks of God as NOT arbitrary and capricious should visit the aftermath of a tornado. Or could it be that the world has a randomness to it and the unproveable God doesn't exist?
More movie stars as God ensues and it is pretty depressing from a writer's point of view that this pap gets published and distributed and probably paid for makes we want to nearly give up as a writer. Go on if you dare. . .
– 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. Or no one is talking. Why can't this be the logical conclusion of not hearing anything?
We all have had days when we feel like we’ve failed God. (I don't) 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, (jeezus, pour some syrup on it while you're at it! What no kittens?) we would surely hear creator God singing hymns over us, his creation. Ah metaphor. . . why can't those sounds just be what they are and it's just us here.
Look, there are actual intelligent theologians that you can have intelligent conversations with about the IDEA of God, faith, science all of that. I had that experience when teaching for the Carmelites. This woman's idea of God has never progressed past an 8 year old's Sunday school version. It's not an unusual stance but I wonder again at how this simplistic, juvenile (and poorly written) load gets published.