Are you afraid of Pagans?

My upcoming novel, Throwing Stones, is a book that might challenge readers on a couple of fronts. First, like all my books, it revolves around a gay teen and, yes, his love interest. Second? Well, although all my books include some aspect of religion or religious practice—either metaphorically or front-and-center—this one will present some readers with a new challenge.

My dentist loves my books (no, he's not gay; he just loves my books), and his staff members know it. Last time I was there, his bookkeeper asked me what I was working on now. I said, "I'm writing a story about a teen who wants to reconcile his family and the people in his town with a group of Pagans who..." I stopped before I could finish my sentence, because her eyes had gone wide. Very wide. But not, I would have said, with interest. It was the kind of surprise that borders on fear. The word "Pagans" shocked her.

Soup? Or fear?

In a current Campbell’s soup campaign, the company portrays real people, in real families, in their advertisements. One of these ads has planted fear in the minds of people who are terrified at the idea of the normalization of same-sex-parent families.


The ad at the heart of the controversy depicts two fathers and their son, a can of Campbell’s soup with Darth Varder’s picture on the label between them. One dad breathes the familiar metallic sound and says, “Luke, I am your father.” Then the other dad, in his take on Darth Vader’s voice, says, “No, Luke; I am your father.” The kid giggles each time and eats some of the soup his dads are feeding him. The ad ends as dad #1 teasingly tells the other dad he’s not a good Darth Vader and should try the Chewbacca voice instead. It all seems harmless enough. So what’s the fuss about?