In worship we had just heard the story of Jacob’s famous dream about the ladder extending from earth to heaven. The minister prayed: “O God, who gives us dreams and visions, we hear the news of the world, and it feels like we are in the midst of a dream bordering upon nightmare.” She proceeded to hold up the litany of tragedy that was on our hearts that morning: the attack on a Malaysian airliner causing 298 fatalities; violence between Israel and Hamas with hundreds of innocent Palestinian deaths; unaccompanied children from Central America crossing our border to escape danger and being met with red-faced anger and resentment; resurgent Islamic extremism in Iraq.

It’s a nightmarish moment, and it seems to me that intolerant extremism has never been so ascendant. Extremists seem to be in charge everywhere.

Philip Jenkins ("Leaving Nineveh") describes the sad consequences of ongoing Iraqi disintegration and the emergence of a very violent Islamism. The northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which incorporates ancient Nineveh, is part of the huge geographic area recently taken over by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a militant extremist group which aspires to bring much of the Muslim world under its absolute control. ISIS has declared the entire area a new caliphate and has claimed authority over all Muslims.