The real question: Where have you gone, daddy Robinson?

The ascension of an openly gay minister to the Episcopalian bishopric this summer ruffled feathers around the globe. Conservatives decried the decision as an abomination. Some Episcopalians threatened to leave the church for greener pastures. And on the heels of June’s Supreme Court decision, the Rev. Gene Robinson has become the focal point of a heated battle in our society about homosexuality. Traditional Christians are now crusading against this supposed evil, and their efforts have culminated by trying to add a silly amendment to the Constitution banning gay marriage. All this commotion is happening for the wrong reasons though.

Why should anyone care about Robinson’s sexuality? Well, because they can, I suppose. But all the hype about his sexual orientation masks what I would consider to be the truly dismal mark on his record – the fact that he bailed on his family. Conservatives have been so wrapped up in the gay versus straight debate that the bigger issue has gotten little airtime at all.

When conservatives focus on the bishop’s homosexuality, they forfeit what has always been their trump card – family values. Robinson’s decision to abandon his marriage more than 15 years ago should have been the focus of this Episcopalian struggle. His negligence toward his family should serve as the real litmus test to evaluate his success as a church leader.

This is no mudslinging attempt on Robinson’s spirituality, which seems rock solid. Instead, this is a criticism of the very critics who fought his election. They see his homosexuality as being the only issue, which it is not. The argument that sexuality undermines the ability to shepherd a flock is a weak one already, but the conservative critics erode it further by not highlighting Robinson’s failed role as a married man. Robinson’s sexuality won’t change anyone’s mind about his leading abilities, but his “throwing in the towel” 15 years ago speaks volumes about his respect for the institution of the church.

Marriage remains the building block of our Christian society. I wonder why the Robinson bashers don’t defend it better. Some make the flaky claim that his sexuality will be the downfall of marriage as we know it. Well, his sexuality was the downfall of only one marriage – his own.

When Robinson ditched his family in 1986, he left behind two young girls. By all indications he has been a good post-divorce father for his daughters, although no amount of good fathering will ever make up for the fact that those girls grew up without mom and dad under the same roof. Dad wasn’t around to chat with at the breakfast table.

Children are often devastated by divorce. Research done by the Heritage Foundation shows that children growing up in divorced families are more likely to suffer from depression, abuse and poor health. Divorce doubles the odds of a child being in the lower 50 percent of their academic class. Drug and alcohol rates for children of divorced parents skyrocket as well.

Bishop-elect Robinson was not a complete deadbeat dad. God willing, he won’t be a deadbeat bishop, either, because instead of two children to guide, the man now has an entire diocese to shepherd. Hopefully he won’t decide 10 years from now that he doesn’t want to sleep in the bishop’s bed anymore because it’s just not “who he is.” Such a job takes true commitment, not unlike the zealous commitment Robinson’s critics have against his sexuality. In their myopia, these conservative folks uphold the same double standard employed against homosexuality for centuries, while overlooking the sacred union of marriage which has made our world so strong.