That being said, I received my first letter of hate mail (from an internet listener who does not attend my church) about one of my sermons.
I almost posted the letter on the blog, but it is long. Essentially, the guy didn't like my sermon on the Parable of the Good Samaritan (which, not coincidentally, I think may have been my best-written sermon ever). The issue was my comparing a Samaritan to a homosexual. He said that the Samaritan was an unlikely hero because of his race, not because of his behavior. In my story, the homosexual is the unlikely hero because of his lifestyle. The analogy "at its best was poor and at its worst, heresy."
Now, I graciously responded to the guy. I thanked him for listening and contacting me, and I showed him that the Samaritan in Jesus' parable was an unlikely hero because of his lifestyle, not just because of his race. The Samaritans were syncretists--blending worship of YHWH with worship of pagan gods. The point of the parable is: "The pagan got it right and the holy men got it wrong." I think my modern analogy was spot on.
But I bring up the issue because I want to say something: It hurts to be called a heretic, regardless of the substance of the accusation. Certain people need to be called heretics--those who teach against the deity of Christ, the trinity, the resurrection, and the other "big" issues. But heretic is a strong word. People get burned at the stake for heresy. Let's not rob it of its power by calling everyone we disagree with a heretic. Let's not call people heretics because they have differing millennial views, or because they teach Calvinism (or Arminianism), or because they question a doctrine like imputation, or because they are postmodern. There is a difference between being wrong and being a heretic. A heretic is grossly wrong.
Then again, maybe language is changing and I just need to get with the times. Chuck Swindoll used to say "God is awesome in the way the word meant before pizza was awesome." Maybe I need to say "Arius was a heretic in the way the word meant before Brian McLaren was a heretic."