Thursday, June 04, 2009

Is Homosexuality Curable?

When I mentioned in an earlier post (link) that I had received a copy of Light In The Closet: Torah, Homosexuality and the Power to Change by Arthur Goldberg, there was an almost immediate negative reaction to the book by some commenters who had not even read it. I attributed this closure of so many minds to the politically correct atmosphere in which we live. However, after going through the book, I understand better why they so strongly oppose the approach advocated by the author.

The book can be divided into four parts -- Jewish attitudes to homosexual acts, the concept of repentance, the homosexual agenda and therapeutic methods of changing sexual orientations. This is a very long book and I can't remember every detail. However, from what I recall, the discussions of Judaism regarding homosexual acts and repentance are accurate. The author rebuts many of the false arguments that have been proposed to permit different aspects of homosexual acts. Again, there might be a point here or there where I disagree, but overall I think he is right.

Click here to read moreHowever, when it comes to the parts about which I have the least competence, I simply lack confidence in the author's presentation. Throughout the book, I was looking for one thing -- statistics showing that these kinds of therapies work. Theories can sound good, especially to laymen like me, and anecdotes might be emotionally powerful but they don't prove much because there are always unusual cases. I did not see any statistics. I saw a lot of strident posturing, a good deal of handwaving and declaring, but no hard numbers. That, alone, is why I have to assume that the therapies do not work well.

This book has everything in it. The author writes clearly and at length about many relevant subjects. It is a fascinating and entertaining read, with many stories and citations from important sources (including R. Micha Berger on repentance - link). The book is so voluminous and includes so much material, that the absence of data implies a lot to me.

Additionally, the author shows all the signs of fringeness. He seems to overemphasize the titles of the people whom he is quoting, which to me implies an attempt to convince readers through intimidation. He seems obsessed with a homosexual agenda, which even if true detracts from the seriousness of his claims. And I saw no discussion of a range or spectrum of homosexual urges. Did I miss it? His black-and-white presentation seems implausible to me. I find the book to have the markings of a fringe manifesto.

This is important because if we simply accept his claims uncritically, we run many risks. The first is recommending his types of therapy to struggling homosexuals. Are we sending them to a near-certain dead-end that will crush them emotionally and might even lead to suicide? The second is simply misunderstanding our fellow Jews and Gentiles who have homosexual tendencies. And the third is that we might look like fools by insisting that something false is true and accusing those who are correct of being gullible.

I don't claim to be a psychologist or to have any experience in counseling. All I can do is use my best judgment as a layman reading this book. However, given the seriousness and sensitivity of the subject, I discussed it with an expert whom I respect and he agreed with my evaluation.

Let me repeat: The book is a very interesting read but I have significant doubts about its conclusions.

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