Conversation Series: Cults from the 70’s

(Originally posted at my old blog July 26, 2007)

During conversation the other day with a customer at Whole Foods, it was revealed that this person was, is, enamored with a “hippie movement” from the late 60’s (some say 68′, others 69′) that was situated for many years in the Seattle Washington area. The group is commonly called Love Israel, named after its founder… who’s real name is Paul Erdman. But this “organization” has gone by a few names: Jordan Village Farms, Love Is Real Family Inc., Love Family, Church of Jesus Christ at Armageddon, Church of Armageddon.

Is It a Cult Though? (click to see)

Israel Love’s (Paul Erdman) followers renamed themselves in like fashion, for example: Patience Israel, Serious Israel, Charity Israel, Abishai Israel, Honesty Israel, on-and-on. With “love” being the central tenant, this New Age cult – like most others – quickly fell into drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, family’s torn apart, bankruptcy, mind-control tactics, and yes… even death. In fact, Erdman’s sexual activities were the subject of much scandal, not to mention the fact that he fathered a dozen or more children with many different women. One dispute after another involved the group in various legal battles, which included zoning and housing violations. All this combined with the many lawsuits from families of cult members led to a mass egression in the mid-eighties of most of its followers. (The lawsuits were mainly to get back savings accounts, property and possessions back after they ere “donated” to Paul Erdmann.)

Revelations

This movement got its start with revelation Paul Erdman received that indicated that he represented the authentic message of the New Testament. Thus, he and his followers felt they were the “true” Christians as well as the “true” Israelites. Old Testament dietary laws were incorporated into this group’s lifestyle while at the same time Old Testament restrictions on “altered states of consciousness” were ignored. Speaking of which, altered states of consciousness were reached by ritualized inhaling of the vapors from an industrial solvent called toluene. Paul Erdman taught that inhaling these vapors was a religious ritual that his members must follow. Follow, that is, until two members died from it in 1972; at which time this practice was “stopped.” I say “stopped” because the group continued to use hyperventilation, hallucinogens and marijuana as aids to altering consciousness. Reportedly all members of the group had visions, dreams, and revelations that explained their purpose on earth. Duh! You could include most of the “Orange Sunshine” consuming hippies in this “revelational” category. Cocaine, of course, later became the drug of choice for Paul Erdman. Shortly after the egression of about 350-or-so people in 1983, the Church of Armageddon was officially disbanded in 1985. While officially disbanded, a small core of people still follow the religious leader Love Israel. Recently Brotherhood Israel sold ecstasy to two undercover agents reconfirming the addiction to drugs this cult has.

Hollywood Connections

As with other cults of the day (Manson Family for instance), the Church of Armageddon had its own connection to Hollywood. The son of the father of talk television, Steve Allen, was part of this group for some time which prompted Steve Allen to write a book on the subject. The book is entitled Beloved Son: A Story of the Jesus Cults, and is currently out of print (I have a copy of course) and should be considered a dated read, however, it is still “chalked full of nuts,” literally!

The Communal 60’s and 70’s

The hippie movement of the sixties produced a mix of Marxian communal living arrangements with a dash of Christianity and New Age (Eastern) thinking thrown in for authority in edicts and lifestyles. Groups such as At Twin Oaks (Virginia), East Wind (Missouri), Ganas (New York), The Farm, and the like popped up all over the place.

Marriage

Similar to these groups the followers do not marry each other with the classical understanding of the monogamous relationship, but considered themselves married to each other in the universal marriage of Jesus Christ and are not bound by “worldly traditions” of matrimony. Love Israel and other leaders had the prerogative (still does, just with fewer people) of permitting couples temporary bonding for the purpose of having children. The humorous question is has thinking spread to the modern left of today? The Church of Armageddon got its name from Revelation 16:16 where Armageddon is mentioned as the gathering place of the end-time.

(1977 “Love” Passover)

Positive Aspects?

Of course. Nothing is purely negative. The group farmed and fished and they developed a free restaurant and a 24-hour inn where guests were housed and fed at no charge. Members distributed food from their farms and fishing boats to needy neighbors. But the good is outweighed by the bad theology, brainwashing, and fear tactics.

Bankrupt! (2003 article By Jennifer Langston)

No longer in the “Queen Ann” area of Seattle, likewise no longer in Arlington, the cult has had to move after declaring chapter 11 bankruptcy. Something ironic since the “Church” rejected worldly laws and governing bodies. The few members (about 30) have moved due to this bankruptcy, selling its spiritual center to a Jewish organization in late 2003. They then moved to the Canadian border and at last report had fewer than 50 members. The Love Israel Family has set up tents along 52 acres near China Bend, a scenic river bench about 10 miles south of the U.S.-Canadian border in Stevens County.

Interesting Factoid

Because of the growth of the many cults during this time, there were many kidnappings and deprogramming done. Family members would pay for the cult member to be kidnapped and then have cult-deprogrammers talk these people through what constitutes the movement as a cult and try to deprogram the influence of the movement on this individual. The first taken from the Love Family was Cathy Crampton. Cathy’s parents allowed CBS to film the kidnapping and deprogramming, which was ultimately unsuccessful. Exit counseling got its start in these times, and many great books and insights have come from the study of brainwashing since.

Modern Day Thinking

Of course, in our Politically Correct environment, all opinions and actions are considered equal in weight and judgment. What is true for you may not be for me! Who are you to say I am wrong in my choice? There are no absolute moral laws. Moral choices are decided by the individual or by society and are not subject to intervention by you… if you do you are considered intolerant. This type of thinking will create more cults and more people who will unite and I am sure in the future we will hear of it. We will hear of the punch being drunk to catch a ride on a comet or to leave this horrible life for a better one. The more the West steps away from the Judeo-Christian-Grecian culture, the less rational and logical thinking will be applied to peoples personal lives. Thus, relativism will “seize the day.”

The below is from Steve Hassan’s site:

Description:

Founded by Paul Erdman, aka “Love Israel” in 1968 in Seattle, Washington. Purports to be fulfilling the vision of Jesus Christ on Earth by working toward a vision of a community that is committed to “love” one another and forgive one another.

Reached zenith of membership in the mid-80’s with nearly 400 members. Dissolution of the majority of the group came about when families of members sued for return of property turned over to the family and allegations of monetary and property mis-management occurred.

The remaining members moved to a 290 acre ranch near Arlington, Washington. During the 90’s the leader and his lead “elder” Serious have formed multiple “corporations”, one of which is The Love Is Real Family, Inc., reportedly a non-profit corporation. Additionally, Serious is the registered agent for: The Jordan Village Corp., The Golden Triangle Development, Inc., The Bistro, Inc., and The Love Is Real Family, Inc. The Bistro is a restaurant concern in Arlington, Washington, reportedly owned and operated by the family. Also reported in the Seattle Times is a evening coffee club called the Compassion Cafe. Members confirm that this is a Family concern but at this point I’ve been unable to obtain documentation to confirm this connection.

I. Behaviors

Great cultural pressure to adhere to group’s norms of dress, styles, manner of talking.

Communal living idealism, so food is regulated by the core group. Key members of the group do not go without food or sufficient provisions. Out of favor members tend not to be taken care of as well or poorly.

Early morning meetings are de riguer and the lifestyle encourages late evenings as well, therefore, not much sleep occurs.

Members are encouraged to contribute all to the family upon joining. Households are reportedly self-sufficient, but must contribute (as of 10/00) 1/3 of their income to Love so that the payments on the property may be made.

Leisure activities of the members revolve around the family actitivies. Love Israel frequently takes trips around the world, particularly Europe. Lesser members never, if ever, travel.

Must always ask permission to make major decisions. Marriages must be “sanctioned” Otherwise, less formal couplings are neither discouraged nor encouraged, although couples are encouraged to experiment outside their union.

Morning “prayer” meetings are often used for getting to what people think/feel.

If you are in favor, you get more food, greater benefits, more freedom. Out of favor and you get job assignments that aren’t as welcome… punishments, group pressure, etc.

There are many rigid rules and regulations. Dependency is wrought first by financial dependency developing into emotional dependency and “learned helplessness.

Perhaps the only real autonomous people there are Love Israel and Serious Israel.

II. Information

Leaders decide who needs to know what. Likely only Love Israel, Serious and their most trusted companions know key areas of the business dealings of the two men.

III. Thought

Must internalize the group’s truth as truth

Loaded language techniques are rampant.

No critical questions about Love, his doctrine or his policies are legitimate. You are a traitor if you question him.

IV. Emotional

Excessive use of fear. Many of the people who have been there for 20 or so years have developed such an indoctrination to the culture that living outside the “family” has become extremely difficult.

(Wiki Source for Photo)

References and Sites Used For This Bio

Websites used:

Some books I used: