Special to God
ONE NEEDS ONLY BE WITHIN RADIO RANGE OF THE SOUTHERN SAN JOAQUIN Valley today to hear the Southwestern influence. The radio brings in a few Spanish-language broadcasts, some rock and roll of various vintages, a bit of news and listener talk programming, but mostly the dial belongs to country music and religious stations. Here are the most distinctive public voices of the Okie subculture -- the drawling heart-of-America songs of the country-western idiom and the soul-saving preaching of evangelical Protestantism. Separated by only a few megahertz, they are the twin keys to the dynamic influence of Southwesterners in California. The story of these two institutions takes us deeply into the process of cultural negotiation that has transformed both Southwesterners and California over the last halfcentury.
The two voices also suggest something of the variation and range of the Okie subculture. From its inception, it has been a community split between two poles, oriented on the one hand around stern-minded religiosity and on the other hand around hard-drinking irreverence -- a community of churches and saloons, of churchgoers and good old boys. While many members move between both camps, or avoid both, the community is preoccupied with this dualism, a habit that reflects the intensely Protestant religious background of the Southwest.
Like its political culture, the home region's religious orientation was