Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has hit back at comments by Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, he made on CBS News' "Face the Nation" on Sunday.
However, Trump hit back yesterday saying: "Russell Moore is truly a terrible representative of Evangelicals and all of the good they stand for. A nasty guy with no heart!"
Moore replied with a tweet saying "Sad", following it up with a Bible reference, to 1 Kings 18:17-19. The passage describes an encounter between Elijah and King Ahab, in which the prophet tells the king he has "abandoned the Lord's commands and have followed the Baals" and challenges Ahab to bring his prophets of Baal and Asherah to a showdown on Mount Carmel.
The context does not end well for the pagans; Elijah is victorious and they are all killed. Ahab dies in battle and his wife Jezebel is eaten by dogs.
Moore also said on MSNBC that it was true he was a "nasty guy with no heart", but that was why he needed "forgiveness of sin and redemption through the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I think that's where most evangelicals are. We're looking though at a situation where there's a reality television character who's saying, 'Let's just not accept what we see as cultural decay, let's glory in it. And I think that's a problem long beyond this presidential election for the culture."
The row over Trump's ascendancy in the Republican party reflects a serious problem faced by US conservative evangelicals, in that neither presidential candidate really reflects their values.
In his CBS appearance Moore said that both Trump and Clinton represented "an amoral sort of vision of America that isn't what we believe in".
He said he believes many evangelicals, particularly those aged under 50, would believe they "cannot in good conscience vote for either candidate". While some conservative evangelicals would vote for Trump, he admitted, many others would not vote at all, would find a third party candidate or would write in for someone else.