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The Love Family, or the Church of Jesus Christ at Armageddon, was a U.S. communal religious movement led by Paul Erdman, who named himself Love Israel. The Love Family began in 1968 as one small communal household on Seattle's Queen Anne Hill, and within the first ten years expanded to a network of communal homes and businesses. As more people arrived and settled in the surrounding neighborhood, Erdman, as the leader, continued to inherit land and homes (from those who joined, primarily) in other, more rural areas of Washington, Alaska and Hawaii. Most of the property is no longer under the control of Erdman, having been sold or returned to the original owners via litigation.
It seems that differing sources of information on the Love Family's duration exist; whereas some sources claim that after 1984, only a small fraction of the community remained in existence in a small location in suburban Bothell, Washington, according to the Seattle Times newspaper and an article written by Serious Israel, the Love Family continued after a fractious conflict in 1984, living on their 300-acre (1.2 km2) property in Arlington, Washington. It was on this commune that the Love Family continued to flourish from 1984 until 2004, when, according to the Seattle Times, families finally left for other, smaller, properties. The Arlington commune supported both a local organic restaurant and an annual festival open to the public called the Garlic Festival, which drew healthy crowds to the property.
"Love Israel" is a play on one of the fundamental affirmations of the group;, "Love is real". Equally important to the remaining members are three other commonly used affirmations: "We are one", "Love is the answer", and "Now is the time". These statements reflect three of the most widely experienced catch-phrases of the 1960s and were the foundation stones of the earlier Love Family culture, even after the bulk of the group had moved on. These three 'fallback' statements were often used to stave deeper curiosity and were blanket responses employed to imprint the listener rather than answer a question in common social terms. Remaining family members still maintain that they were called together to help each other cultivate love, oneness and the presence of God in everyday family life. Very little is spoken about the continuing belief that Erdman is a leader chosen by God to have authority over them in their lives. They also believe that their gathering has Biblical roots and that their purpose is to help fulfill Old Testament prophecy and the promises of Jesus.
The current group still claim to view themselves as both the spiritual tribe of Israel and the Church of Jesus Christ at Armageddon, where Armageddon means the time and place of the gathering of God's family. A few family members continue to be renamed (and newborns named) to remind all that each person's character is gifted with a predominant attribute such as Charity, Honesty or Contentment, that may someday be attained.
The pioneers of the family came together gathered by vision and aggressive recruiting in Seattle's hippie community. Erdman was a salesman with a vision; charismatic and well spoken. Members came to hold him as better than themselves over time, working hard to make sure there was as seamless a hierarchy as possible. The small remaining core of Erdman's community continues to this day.
In 1984, it was reported that membership dwindled from 500 to 40 as the group was forced to give back assets and money to disenchanted members. Notably, the Love Family returned to former member Daniel Gruener aka Richness Love $1.6 million and 14 Seattle properties.
The Love Family evolved from being a highly concentrated communal society with a shared economy, to what some non-members call a cult with their own laws and ways. The greater community in time became a social network of autonomous households that interact through a shared culture that they have continued to create together, without the robes and peer-enforced order. Presently, those that continue to claim membership in what remains of the Family are concentrated in two locations; around a communal center in a residential neighborhood of Bothell, Washington and a few homes and lots on the shore of the Columbia River (Lake Roosevelt), just below Canada, where a number of ex-members have property.
In January 2016, it was reported founding member Love Israel is battling stage 4 cancer.
- Controversial, colorful Israel family moves to more open spaces, Seattle Times, April 19, 2004, retrieved September 6, 2011
- 'Love Family' broke, Ellensburg Daily Record, May 20, 1984, retrieved 2016-02-03
- Teens spend summer in Love family's footsteps at Camp Kalsman near Arlington, Everettt Herald, August 2, 2008, retrieved 2011-12-27
- Counterculture icon Love Israel near death, King 5, January 29, 2016, retrieved 2016-01-31
- It Takes A Cult at SIFF
- It Takes a Cult at the Internet Movie Database
- Bringing The Vision Down To Earth by Serious Israel
- Steve Allen's Son Brian Saw God on An Acid Trip: It Turned Him into Logic Israel, by Cheryl McCall, People (magazine), April 2, 1979, retrieved February 17, 2014.