Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Research on migrants, religions, love languages of God, society, and Germany needed


My two M.A.s are in Political Science and in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. That means I have a great deal of background and training in working with peoples of other cultures and have focused most of my adult life on working to help others to improve their language skills and cross-cultural awareness and relates skills. In addition, as a historian in my younger days, I had focused on Western European History but later became a universalist with a strong background in IPE, international political economy.

Prior to my coming to Germany to teach in January of this year, I had worked in Kuwait or the Middle East for six of the prior 9 years. During that time, I not only taught and trained with Arabs and Muslims from all walks of life and age levels (and gender), but I was also an active participant and presenter, for example at the AWARE CENTER in Kuwait, a non-profit organization, which promoted cultural and religious exchanges between East and West.

I should add here, that Kuwait is a much more multi-cultural land than is Germany currently. For examples, roughly half the population is Muslim and Arab, but at least half of the Arabs are not Kuwaitis. (Arabic and its related dialects is spoken in nearly 40 countries worldwide.) Likewise, there are living in Kuwait South Asians, who make up approximately one-third of the national population. (The Indian Rupee was the currency of exchange in Kuwait till its Independence after 1959.) Other migratory groups in Kuwait are smaller but mixed—Western Europe, North and South America, as well as Southeast and Far East Asia, and Africa. (My wife, whom I met in Kuwait, is Filipino.) Officially, only Ibrahamic (or Abrahamic) faiths are permitted in Kuwait, but unofficially--and to a great degree fairly tolerated under the Kuwaiti regime--are the following: Baha’is’, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, and various other faiths. (The Greeks had also worshipped their Gods in Kuwait on the Isle of Ikarus, now called Failaka.)

One of my more popular presentations and sources of discussion for Muslims, Christians and other faiths in Kuwait at the AWARE CENTER and in some local church communities was based on the ideas outlined by Gary Chapmen in his “Love Languages of God” metaphor.

The “love languages” metaphor was first developed for counseling purposes, i.e. counseling amongst men and women, teens and adults and others in North America some decades ago. As with many driving metaphors on building interpersonal and intra-group relationships (such as John Grey’s “Venus and Mars” metaphor or Daniel Goleman’s concept of “Emotional Intelligence, i.e. among peoples of different religious and cultural backgrounds) ,Chapman’s “love languages” is fairly holistic and certainly can be used as a core area for building common understandings within a variety of settings, and among peoples of many different faiths.

My interpretation of the “Five Love Language” metaphor is a essentially the same as that advocated by the biblically oriented Chapmen. However, unlike Chapmen, who saw “love languages” as a Christian-specific metaphor to be applied in Western faith settings only, I explored initially in Kuwait the cross-over to Islam.

Later, I discussed the “love languages” content with Buddhists and Baha’is. These peoples of other faiths, too, found sufficient common overlap. Reading any of Gary Chapman's books (or even by simply viewing his own website), one can gain a brief and important introduction into what his five love languages metaphor is all about. We learn that the five love languages of man are identified as (1) Words of Affirmation, (2) Quality Time, (3) Gift Giving, (4) Acts of Service, and (5) Physical Touch.

“Words of Affirmation” acknowledges that using words to affirm the other person is a key way to express love. There are thousands of ways to express affirmation by words The words may be spoken, written, in prayer, or in a song. To people whose primary love language is words of affirmation, such affirming words fall like spring rain on barren soil.

NOTE: I should add here that each person is born and/or raised to prefer one of the five love languages. That is, the form of the love language one most naturally uses with others is often a reflection of one’s own manifestation of perceived, needed, or desired format of love (as shown through action, word, and deed in the form of one of the 5 love languages).

Second, “Quality Time” means: Giving the other undivided attention. Chapmen says, “The important thing is not the activity but that the two of you are together. When you give someone quality time, you are giving him or her part of your life. It is a deep communication of love.”

Third, “Gifts” communicate: He or she was thinking about me. For these people, nothing makes them feel more loved than a gift. “Gifts need not be expensive. You pick up a colored, twisted stone while hiking, …take it home …give it to a ten-year old boy, tell him where you found it, and tell him you were thinking of him…when he is twenty-three, he will still have that stone in his drawer.”

Fourth, “Acts of Service” claims that actions speak louder than words, so doing something for someone else is an expression of love. “To the person whose primary love language is acts of service, words may indeed be empty if they are not accompanied by acts of service. The husband says, ‘I love you,’ and she’s thinking, ‘If he loved me, he would do something around here.’”

Finally, “Physical Touch” recognizes that long before a child understands what the meaning of love is, he may identify love with a touch. “If the child’s primary love language is physical touch, nothing is more important.” Even if, later as a teenager, the very same child pulls back at an approaching hug or kiss, he or she would still like a pat on the back or an arm around the shoulder (or some other physical contact)—otherwise, he/she will feel unloved.

Chapmen finds through his decades of counseling that each human being has a preference for one form of communication(or Love Language) when relating to their loved ones or even to their Lord or God.


As noted above, Chapmen focused his 5 Love Languages of God on the Christian God, with which he was familiar. However, I then asked people in Kuwait, could this metaphor be extended to other faiths around the globe—including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Animism, etc.? That is, could the 5 love languages metaphor be applicable across all societies around the globe? Would the insights provided be as obvious in such other societies and families?

At the AWARE CENER, I had often looked at this topic from the Islamic and Arab perspectives-- not only through the (from Chapmen) intended Christian perspective. In doing so, I found it actually quite helpful in discussing commonalities in the belief systems among parents from both Eastern and Western societies and family backgrounds. It was for example, easy to find many Koranic verses and famous Hadiths which supported the views of other Ibrahamic faiths. These texts could be woven into lectures on the LOVE LANGUAGES OF GOD that I had given fairly easily—adding to mutual awareness and points of contact among cultures.

One important Muslim perspective on worship [and man’s relationship to God or Allah] often revolves around concepts and practices, which are well-known as the 5 Pillars of Islam. These 5 main deeds or pillars in Islam are: (1) Declaration of Faith, (2) Five Daily Prayers, (3) Zakat, (4) Fasting, especially in Ramadan, and (5) Hajj. Most of these five deeds are easy to understand or appreciate as part of worship and lifestyle of prayer or faith. This is because most every religions around the world, including Christianity use fasting and prayer or statements of faith in making communications to their Lord and loved ones within the brotherhood or sisterhood of faith.

Likewise, a declaration of faith in Islam could be correlated to a baptism or a public announcement/confirmation of one’s faith before church congregation. Finally, the five daily prayer rite means that at five specified times each day, a Muslim will carry out prayers. Meanwhile, “The Hajj” is the most famous and most highly practiced form of pilgrimage in the world. It involves a journey from any corner of the planet to Mecca via Medina carried out once in believer’s lifetime. Finally, “Zakat” refers to acts of charity and tithing.

Most importantly, each of these Five Pillars of Faith (or deeds) in Islam provide perspectives on or interpretations through which the five categories or love languages of God coincide. Recall thosse five love languages: (1) Words of Affirmation, (2) Quality Time, (3) Gifts, (4) Acts of Service, and (5) Physical Touch!

The prayer 5 times a day in Islam is certainly a physical act, i.e. related to the 5th language above. Likewise, the giving of Zeikat or alms is certainly an example of either the 3rd or 4th languages (or both). The Haj also manifests a mix of all five love languages in all its elements. Similar is the time of fasting in Ramadan.

This hypothesis concerning the transferability of the Love Languages of God metaphors came from my own observation of Islam, i.e. as a Christian observer who has lived in and traveled in a dozen Islamic lands. As noted above, when I presented on the Love Languages of God and discussed their content in a vary mixed audience of males, females, old, young, Christian, Muslims, and others in Kuwait, I discovered an immediate embracing of the metaphors by the many different participants, especially in how the metaphor(s) provided a common or basic of understanding among the participants.

One interesting facet of looking at man’s relationship to the Almighty (and to his relationship to others in his world) through love languages is that the process frees man from his ethno-religious trappings to some degree while analyzing what his relation to God is. In other words, it provides an objective framework to describe and share subjective experiences. In other words, traditional religious baggage--which may either prescribe or proscribe what a man must do in his faith or religion, can be eliminated from a good part of the discussion. One focuses primarily instead on the relationship of God to individuals—and/or how God and the believer (or the community of believers) communicates or relates to God and others.


Chapman's weakest point seems to be that he fails to readily admit that some people might have several love languages—not necessarily just one or primarily one. On the other hand, the metaphor of 5 love languages seems to apply well to relations among men, women and children of whatever nation or family.

The metaphor continues, according to Chapmen and my research to date:

(1) God speaks all 5 love languages, and
(2) Man can learn to speak more than one love language and can learn to appreciate it when the others, including God, communicate to him in another love language as well.
(3) Moreover, Chapman concedes, there are also many dialects of the 5 love languages by which man can relate to others or his Lord.

The important point is that upon gaining a self-awareness of these languages and one’s own preferences, one can grow as a human being and relate to others in one’s family and nation more successfully.


According to Chapmen, to determine one’s own personal love language, one should carry-out a relatively straight forward task. One simply needs to ask oneself these questions:

(1) How do I most express love to other people?
(2) What do I complain about most often?
(3) What do I request from others most often?

Amazingly, here—in answering these 3 questions--one is often quickly determine what their primary love language is. Alternatively, one can take the questions to friends and loved ones to gain helpful feedback if encountering difficulty identifying your primary love language.

NOTE: Sadly, when I tried this, I came up with 5 different answers depending on which facets of each of the three questions I focused on. As well, those friends, whom I have met with and discussed the questions with, were unable to provide perspective on which of the five love languages is my primary love language. Nonetheless, the majority of people I have interviewed find it relatively easy to narrow their own love languages to one or two. (This enables them, in turn, to note what they are weak in or need to consider working on when dealing with loved ones and others.)

This trouble in determining my own love language is, in a way, to some degree the more troubling aspect for some reviewers of Gary Chapman’s metaphor of love languages.

On the other hand, I personally have attention deficit, which likely makes it hard for me to focus on all aspects of these simple 3 questions in determining what my primary love language is. (Nonetheless, I realize from my own international and intercultural life experience that some persons, like myself, quite likely consistently use a variety of dialects of the five love languages. These languages overlap one or more other love language. In short, having lived in nearly ten nations and having traveled in more than 100 lands, I likely often love a bit more multilingually than the average person.)


According to Chapman, how one person talks to or communicates with God is basically answered by the same questions as noted above:

(1) How do I most express love to God?
(2) What do I complain to God about most often?
(3) What do I request of God most often?

Again, personally, I have realized that answering these 3 questions was not especially of much help to me in determining my primary love language with the Almighty. Through having spent my time meeting different peoples and worshipping in different environments over three decades, I have likely acquired a multiplicity of dialects in more than just one primary love language.

On the other hand, almost half the people I know manifest the same love language to the Almighty that they manifest to their loved ones and to others. Nearly, all the people I have met have been able to identify which primary or secondary manifestations of love are to their Lord.

Still, I need to hone my skills in a plurality of love languages. As a matter of fact, we all do. Chapmen assumes that awareness of the language preference of oneself is just a starter, i.e. when we are talking about the global need to communicate to others and the ALMIGHTY our love. For example, you might be weak in any particular one of the five love languages at various times in some corner of your life or another. Therefore, you should be prepared to try to improve your language skills simply to make your communication with the Lord (and others in faith) more fulfilling. Likewise, improving one’s skill in another love language can only help you to get along and love other humans more.

My proposed research would be to attempt to develop a variety of new perspectives on this metaphor of LOVE LANGUAGES OF GOD to create a network of bridges between the myriad of German citizens and migrants in Germany today.

PHASE 1: Develop a series of lectures for different religious communities
in Germany, especially in North Rhine Westphalia. This is not intended to be exhaustive but simply a representative locations and communities will be sought out and contacted. Some initial educational material and questionnaires can be developed and used during this phase.

PHASE 2: Develop questionnaires for surveying a larger representative
body concerning love languages for others and love languages
of God—and how these manifest themselves in family, society,
and business.

Both Phases 1 & 2 can be done simultaneously—and may continue into Phases 3 & 4.

PHASE 3: Revise/create more didactic materials to bridge what has
been learned or acquired so far in first phases of research
in Germany.

PHASE 4: Create and try out role plays, games, and political/social
Experiments, which demonstrate trends in behavior and
attitudes and how negative trends in society may be handled or how positive trends may be further supported through awareness and political/social/religious/economic education.


Hypothesis 1: Chapmen’s Love Language metaphor is useful across faiths for education, awareness, and mutual understanding.

Hypothesis 2: Chapmen’s Love Language metaphor is useful within groups and peoples of a single faith for education, awareness, and mutual understanding.

Hypothesis 3: Increased awareness of common and weak or strong areas of love language improves individuals relationship to a greater or larger non-faith-community.

Hypothesis 4: Increased awareness of common and weak or strong areas of love language improves ethnic group’s relationship to a greater or larger non-faith- or lesser non-in-group community.



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