Just yesterday I refreshed my memory of the Love Israel Family, a “cult” of some local fame/infamy in Seattle. The Family numbered roughly 300 (some estimates say as many as 500) at its height, in the early 1970s. Remnants of it exist still, mostly in the northeastern part of Washington state, where a handful of the faithful operate a winery, and in a couple-three houses in a Seattle suburb. The Family (The Church of Jesus Christ at Armageddon) was led by one Paul Erdmann, who ditched that handle for the name Love Israel. All the members adopted the surname Israel and first names of some perceived personality attribute. (I recall once being picked up while hitchhiking by Diligence and Fun.) Family members handed over their worldly wealth to the church (to Love, really), which used it to acquire several houses on Queen Anne Hill, most of which was lost when a member left the Family (Richness Israel was his name among the members) and sued its pants off. (The Family settled before going to trial.) That, along with a revolt by some against Love’s absolute authority (the social structure was highly patriarchal as well, but that’s a tangent for another day), had the remaining Family decamping for a more rural setting a couple hours north, where, judging from most accounts, they got along well enough with the locals, operating a restaurant in town and hosting an annual “garlic festival” on their land. But investments that went south brought an end to that and now the land is a Jewish summer camp. Steve Allen’s son Brian was once a member. Logic Israel was his name. Yesterday I watched a video clip from a TV talk show c.1985 with Steve and Brian Allen discussing his time with the Family. (Steve Allen wrote a book on the subject.) Brian said something that stuck with me, which was, to paraphrase, that being a part of a “chosen” community satisfies a need in some people to be important. It’s a sort of grandiosity, a kind of self-centeredness, really, even when the rhetoric strongly suggests otherwise. And when people have so much of their identity so invested, well, they’ll do things they’d never otherwise do. (Think of that other “family” from about the same time, but some 1,100 miles or so to the south.) I mean really. Calling yourself “Love.” Sheesh!