But that is no reason to give up on logic and facts.
Between the New York Times article linked to above and this Giles Fraser column I find a couple of things not well thought through.
First, a claim that Smyth represents an unchecked development in evangelical theology (or, at least, British evangelical theology). The NYT article and the Fraser column do not actually bring forth one further example of a Smyth at work within evangelicalism. Not one. Let alone, say, 100 caners or even 1 published author boldly declaring caning as the logical outcome of Romans and Galatians on justification by faith. Now, that would be a sign of evangelical perversity.
Rather, Fraser links Smyth to the general theme of British public schools, that caning was essential to discipline and to ensuring that young men grew up morally upright. Reputable newspapers and popular columnists ought to do more work than this lazy elision from one rogue, viciously obsessive evangelical to a whole system of education as a sign of evangelicalism's nasty ills.
The point would be stronger if evangelicals exclusively held headmasterships and masters' position through the British and empire public/independent school system. Let me recall how many evangelicals there were among the headmaster and masters I knew in my school days at Christ's College (when caning was permitted) ... hmm ... fingers of one hand ... maybe 2 out of some 50 staff. And definitely not the HM of that day who was moderately Anglican!
Secondly, Fraser claims that
"Part of the purpose of empire was to promote evangelical Christianity. But the empire was no place for effeminate Christians. And so the ability to take a good beating became training for the sort of mental toughness that was required to rule the world."
This is simply baloney. As the empire advanced, evangelicals often and in many places struggled to get into the territories the British were controlling. No doubt there were one or two places where evangelicals were welcomed by the bureaucracy but my understanding - correct me if I am wrong - is that evangelical advancement was not at the forefront of empire advancer thinking.
Indeed, here in NZ, evangelicals arrived before "the empire" arrived. And once "the empire" was established here (1840 and all that) we soon had an empire-established bishop and whatever kind of man Selwyn was as a muscular Christian, he was NOT AN EVANGELICAL. Try telling the Williams family about Selwyn and his love for evangelicals! Try telling the Nelson and Christchurch Dioceses about how evangelical their first bishops were (not!).
So, let's be alarmed, disturbed and leave no stone unturned in investigations of Smyth's misdeeds. Let evangelicalism be open and honest about rogues in its past and in its midst. By all means examine evangelicalism for its explicit or implicit support of violence as key to holiness. (Though because it has never been part of my experience, through many evangelical contexts (SU, TSCF, CMS Youth, CUs at two universities, friends from many evangelical parishes, I would be surprised to find Smyth's misdeeds frequently and widely repeated, if at all.)
So, please, let's not damn evangelicalism unnecessarily by lazy-thinking associations; let's not get our facts wrong (what's the term ... "alternative facts") and let's not overlook all the rogue Christians who have actually been non-evangelicals. I could give names ...!
I will publish comments about evangelicalism's currently alleged association with violence as a means of sanctifying disciples of Christ. But I will not publish a comment which even implies in a distant manner the You Know What issue which is being fasted from through Lent on this blog.