This question didn’t interest me when I first read it, but upon reflection I realized it gets at something very important.
Think back for a moment to the days of the Roman Empire; back then from the point of view of Imperial Rome God sounded like marching armies and the clash of weapons in combat. People knew God was with and in the emperor because his armies won, his empire expanded.
But then, along comes this other vision of how God sounds, a vision which declared that God sounded like a poverty stricken mother in labor, a poor blind man crying out for mercy, and preeminently, the last breath of one who has been crucified by the edict of Imperial Rome. That is the sound of God. And thanks to that remarkable vision, those two ways of hearing God are still with us today, but of the two the majority report still agrees with Imperial Rome. God sounds like tanks rolling through urban streets, God sounds like bombs falling, God sounds like machine gun fire. God sounds like our side, whatever side that is, imposing its will by violence on their side, whatever side that is.
But I am not convinced; I am still captivated by that other way of hearing God, and so I believe God sounds like a refugee fleeing the destruction of her home, God sounds like people looking for enough bread to keep their children alive.
And here is why this question of how God sounds is important. As long as people believe that God sounds like bombs falling we will continue to drop bombs. As soon as we realize that God sounds like the people on whom those bombs are dropped, we will, in that instant, stop dropping bombs forever. And then then, and only then, will the swords be beaten into plow shares, and the spears into pruning hooks.
Rev. Bill Ellis is dean of St. John’s Cathedral. He has a bachelor’s degree in history, a Master of Divinity and holds an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Church Divinity School of the Pacific.