Book Review: Light in the Closet by Arthur Goldberg, J.D.

A new book, Light in the Closet, Torah, Homosexuality, and the Power to Change made its debut at the recent NARTH Conference (Denver, CO, 2008).

Written in an engaging and accessible style for the layman while simultaneously detailing scientific data for the therapeutic community, the book examines many aspects of the homosexual issue from an approach that is variously secular, scientific, and biblical. There is a fascinating critique of gay-affirmative therapies with teenagers and a discussion of the harm they can cause.

Light in the Closet integrates three subjects: the current culture war, Old Testament understandings of sexuality as they can be applied within our culture today, and alternative therapeutic approaches to overcoming same-sex attractions. The book thus breaks new ground by harmonizing the psychological healing of unwanted homosexuality with the classical teachings of Judaism, emphasizing Torah (a/k/a Old Testament or Hebrew Bible) sources. Light in the Closet works through three millennia of discussion on sexuality issues, beginning with the Torah and concluding with contemporary rabbinical commentary.

Goldberg’s book critiques the “gay gene” mystique and describes the strategy of gay activists to desensitize Western society to behaviors long forbidden by our society’s moral tradition. This eye-opening account explains with specific examples how gay activists have carried the homosexual agenda into the public school systems, using officially -sanctioned “disinformation” about homosexuality within the schools, and further complicating the problem with worldview censorship that narrows students’ perceptions about many controversial social issues.

Light in the Closet also explains the reasoning behind many sexual prohibitions in the Bible including, for example, rarely heard philosophical/scientific discussions on sexual-reassignment surgery, bestiality, and sexual abuse of children. Goldberg explains the wisdom behind the biblical sanctions prohibiting these practices, while providing detailed understandings of the latest scientific data about these subjects. The current contentious issue of same-sex marriage within Western society is also explored, as is the question of gay parenting.

The current efforts to legitimize both gay marriage and gay parenting within secular Western societies make this book particularly relevant.

There are numerous testimonials in the book from those who have changed their sexuality, and also from those who say they were led astray–either through gay-affirmative psychologists who encouraged them to claim a gay identity against their wishes, or by the general cultural climate that discouraged them from adhering to their long-held moral principles.

There is an interesting section on how homosexual politics actually obstruct freedom of choice, along with a number of testimonials by the people who say they were victims of the one-sided agenda of gay activism.

The author explains that he entitled the book Light in the Closet as a contrast to the current politically correct posture that says those with SSA have only one choice: to come out of the closet and embrace a gay lifestyle. By instead shining a light into the closet, and explaining the possibilities of change of sexual orientation, the author hopes to create a meaningful dialogue within Western society and to enhance the understanding of the change process.

All too often, people refer to the psychological processes of transformation simply as “reparative therapy,” but the author explains how in fact there are several different psychological approaches in use within today’s mental-health community, each of which are designed to enable a gender-conflicted man or woman to develop an authentic, internalized sense of the physiological manhood or womanhood with which they were born.

Explanations are found throughout the book of alternative methodologies currently in use whether the approach is psychoanalytic, or involves processes such as psychodynamics, cognitive-behavioral therapies, trauma-focused modalities such as EMDR, faith-based healing options, or the several other approaches in use. The author points out that although each of the alternative approaches tackles sexual reorientation differently in terms of intervention and treatment, they all share two critical points in common: (1) an empirically tested conviction that same-sex attractions and behavior are psychologically determined symptoms of other underlying conditions, and (2) their efforts have a demonstrable track record of treatment success.

The author sets forth a fascinating analysis (pages 27-46) of a case study published by a Stanford University professor in which a client was harmed by treating him for “internalized homophobia” (disapproval of homosexuality). There is no evidence in the study that the client was effectively treated for his most serious underlying psychological pathologies. The case was reported in the American Journal of Psychotherapy and it fascinatingly illustrates the divide between those of the gay-affirmative school of therapy (i.e., most of the psychological profession) and those of the gender-affirming school (reorientation therapists).

In this case study, the gay-affirmative therapist proudly explains his treatment of a fourteen-year-old boy for “severe internalized homophobia” because the boy expressed a profound aversion for gay sex. Although he treated the boy for four years, there is no indication in the published case study that the therapist ever informed the boy or his parents of his right to choose alternative treatment for unwanted SSA. Rather than help the patient understand, validate, and actualize his resistance to gay feelings or fantasies, the therapist chose to utilize homosexual-affirming techniques in order to change the boy’s values and sense of self so they could be integrated with a gay group identity. The predictable result was to alleviate the client’s earlier aversion to homosexual behavior; yet the therapist reports that a panoply of issues remained, such as hopelessness, feelings of worthlessness, depression, shame, and suicidal ideation that not only continued after his “homophobia” was eliminated, but actually got worse.

This particular case study is crucial in gaining a better perspective of the harm that can be caused by gay-affirmative therapy.

More than a dozen experts in the field, including mental health professionals, prominent rabbis, and Christian leaders have written positive reviews of Light in the Closet. For example, Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst and author of Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, states:

“Arthur Goldberg has written a brilliant, compassionate and remarkably compelling book. I consider it among the best-maybe the best-ever written on the subject not just of homosexuality but of the capacity for human change of heart…”

Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, NARTH’s former president, says that “Arthur Goldberg’s sweeping and scholarly survey investigates the social, political, spiritual, medical and personal aspects of same-sex attraction. Written with both compassion and hard-hitting truth, this book unifies the wisdom of the Torah with modern psychology, and in so doing, reveals timeless truths about the human condition.”

NARTH’s immediate past-president, A. Dean Byrd, comments that the author did “a masterful job of bringing the truths of science in harmony with the truth of the Ages.”

Several prominent religious leaders, both Jewish and Christian, likewise provide strong endorsements. Rabbinical scholar Rabbi Michel Twerski states that the manuscript reflects an “extraordinarily compelling and literate analysis of SSA and its treatment modalities.” Rabbi Twerski says that Goldberg proves himself “a worthy heir to the mantle of the patriarch Abraham, who dared to speak the truth in a generation inflamed with idolatry and its twisted presentations of morality… the work is so important that it belongs on the desk and in the hands of every … therapist, social worker, school principal, parent, and most critically every SSA sufferer aspiring to make himself whole.”

Christian leaders have been no less generous in their praise. Pastoral counselor Joe Dallas comments that the book is “a rare blend of compassion, scholarship and encouragement to those who take life and Scripture seriously. A wonderful read and a valuable tool.”

Those interested in ordering the book can do so through the publisher’s web site, The author may be contacted at


Related Articles

Archive Search

Search the world's largest online archive of material about Jewish diversity.

Archive Search

Search the world's largest online archive of material about Jewish diversity.