The Rev. Dr. Marcia Ledford’s ministry is in Southwest Detroit’s Latinx population—an international port with an aggressive regional ICE director. Dr. Ledford is a civil rights attorney representing society’s most marginalized. An Episcopal priest, she holds a Master of Divinity from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. She earned her Doctor of Ministry in political theology from Pacific School of Religion. Dr. Ledford founded Political Theology Matters, LLC, to help the faithful develop public theology mission and broadcast messaging for greater social justice. She is trained for community organizing through the Industrial Areas Foundation and volunteers with Michigan United.
Connect with Marcia here https://www.politicaltheologymatters.com/
Brandon Handley 0:43
321 Hey, there’s spiritual dope. Today I am on with the Reverend Dr. Marsha Ledford, who is a civil rights attorney representing society’s most marginalized. Her ministry is in southwest Detroit’s Latinx population and international port with an aggressive regional ice director. Yeah, I think I could what that is an Episcopal priest she holds a master of divinity from the church Divinity School on the Pacific of the Pacific. She earned her doctorate of ministry in political theology from Pacific School of religion. Dr. Ledford founded political theology matters, LLC to help the faithful develop public theology mission for greater social justice. Marsha teaches speaks and preaches about political theology and very forums. Marsha, so glad to have you here with us today. How are you?
I’m good. And I’m delighted to be with you, Brandon. Thank
Brandon Handley 1:36
you. Absolutely. So I always like to start these off with this, this kind of idea that we’re we’re vessels for source creative energy, the divine right, as it were, and you know, as it is, you and I are having this conversation, but somebody on the other end is listening in and they’re gonna get a message that just, I don’t know, lights up that divine spark within them today that’s going to be delivered through you. What is that message today?
That we can work for the greater good, even though it seems like our problems are super complex, because we can tap into our spirituality to empower us.
Brandon Handley 2:17
I love that right? The idea that I’m tapping into our spirituality, I think it’s um, and I’d love to get your perspective, especially as you said, you come from a marginalized population. Hmm. I feel I from my perspective, anyways, our spirituality is just vastly over neglected. Right. And we don’t look at it as this resource that can help propel us to this divine space. Right, right. So in this community that you’re serving, how do you? What are some of the tools or ways that you’re teaching them to tap into that source?
Well, and it’s really not just a parochial ministry, my full time work is teaching everybody how to tap into our spirituality of resistance. So you know, it’s, like I said before, it seems like it’s super complicated, but in some respects, it’s not, we just have to do some inner work. And we have to join voice forces with others to do this work. So and I apologize, I kind of lost your question.
Brandon Handley 3:37
It’s quite alright, so the idea, right, so sorry, you know how so? Yes, connecting to that divine right, so that they can, yeah, leverage that source for themselves? So when you say do some inner work and join forces with some others? What’s that look like? Right?
That’s a great question. And so Roger Gottlieb, who is a professor of philosophy, and is active in his Judah ism, wrote a book called The spiritual spirituality of resistance A few years ago, and his primary focuses on creation care, climate change us, you know, stopping that. But the techniques that he has written about I have really embraced. And essentially, there are two things. And when you when you do this, you can apply it to any issue that is important to you. So it’s not limited to climate change or anything else. So you do the inner work, you spend some time with yourself, do some reflection, take some take a course on meditation. Write down what’s important to you. That sounds like overly simplified but when you listen to the news every day, you know What really gets sticks under your craw, What makes you say to yourself, I’ve got to do something about this. And then incorporate that into your meditative practice and listing out things that concern you and that you want to work a list out your skills and abilities. Take a personality inventory, like Myers Briggs or something, doing a Nia Graham, there are lots of resources out there for you to do some of this inner work that I call it. And the other there’s another inventory type of inventory that you can do, which is conflict, like, what is your threshold for conflict? Because I get questions, sometimes people will say, Well, you know, I can’t be out on the front line of a protest, I am just super uncomfortable doing it, it’s not my thing. And my responses, you know, there are all kinds of activities that are required to pull off a protest, or to testify in front of a governmental body or start a ministry or whatever it may be. So there’s a place for all of us, we all have gifts that complement one another. Then the second part of doing spiritual resistance is finding a group of people that want to work on issues that are important to you, and bring those skills to the table. We’re so much more powerful in numbers. And we know when we know what we’re good at, and what’s important to us, that makes us even more powerful. And we can join forces with others who can do things that we can’t, and we can do things that they can’t. And we work together primarily, my recommendation is through community organizing, I think it’s the best way for a spirituality of resistance,
Brandon Handley 6:56
right? I think that, um, you know, normally with spiritual spirituality of resistance means it means
two things happen to us, when we live in such a complex world, we either try to avoid what’s going on, or we try to deny it. So the spirituality of resistance, takes that head on, and says, I’m not going to avoid stuff, and I’m not going to deny that it’s happening, I’m going to lean into the needle as it were, which is a pretty nice analogy right now. Because even if you’re afraid of needles, you got to lean into that. That vaccination, in order that we get this pandemic wrestled to the ground once and for all. So you lean into that, which bothers you. When we avoid things, Gottlieb has this is his expression. And so I’m going to credit him, but he talks about how we have a tendency to put stuff that bothers us or we don’t like under the floorboards of our consciousness. Okay, so when we are going to stop avoiding things, we pull that stuff out from under the floorboards and we start dealing with it, and we name it, that’s a very important part of the spirituality of resistance. To name What is wrong, because as soon as you do that, you take a little bit of its power away. And then as you continue to work to eradicate whatever this wrong is, obviously, over time, it becomes even more disempowered. So that’s avoidance. That’s when like, pretending that stuff is not as bad as it is or that, you know, pretending it’s not there. And the other thing about avoiding stuff is it takes a lot of our energy that we could put into positive forces positive works. So when we spend a lot of time doing this, and pretending we’re wasting our energy and our gifts and talents, does that make sense?
Brandon Handley 9:17
It does make sense. So okay. And what I wrote down there tos is the idea of when we avoid these things, or deny them either way, we have an awareness of them. Yeah. Right. And it’s the idea of our brains being kind of like computer programs in the sense that if or I think other people refer to it as like, your browser having too many tabs open. Yeah, right. And so you’ve got all these tabs up, right? You’ve got all these tabs open and but like, I’m not gonna go back to that page. I’m not ready for it yet. So that tabs like sitting there, sucking up resources that like if you go back over to it, and if you label it as you’re saying It takes its power away. But it also says to that this, this has now been identified, right? You’ve categorized it, you’ve identified it. And now once it’s got a label or a category, you’ve got the, hopefully, right, you’ve got some tools that you can leverage with, with those labels and categories, right? So you, right? Or, or you could at least go to somebody and say, hey, look, I’ve got a couple of these things. Can you help me with this? Because I think another thing that you mentioned is this whole idea of community, building it, or being a part of it, or leaving it was Western societies all? I’ve got to be the hero in every movie, right? And every scene, if I don’t do this all myself, then did I do it at all? Right. Right. And so, you know, I think that when, when you’re talking about this person who says that they’ve, you know, they don’t see themselves on the forefront of the line? You know, what, and they think that that’s the only way it can be, but you’re saying that they can get involved in so many other ways? Oh, yeah.
Right. Okay, you know, maybe your speech, or maybe you write great speeches, maybe your graphic designer, and you know, you, whatever project you’re doing, need some outreach material. And so you can, you can participate in, it’s just as important, as you know, the extroverts out on the front lines, the, the, you know, the the background stuff, the preparation is just as important. I was on a show recently with a really interesting and insightful young man who’s a disability advocate, and he’s on the autistic spectrum. But I was talking to him about when you’re doing the group work, you have to do a power analysis, and you have to study and prepare. And he immediately went to the rope, a dope example with the Frazier Ali fight in 1974. And, you know, at the time, foreman was knocking people out before the fifth,
Unknown Speaker 12:00
round. And so Muhammad Ali studied the film, and he realized that while he delivered these thunderous blows, he got tired fast. And so he just barely decided he was going to just go to the ropes and observe some abdominal blows, and just kind of wear him out. And it worked. He knocked him out. And I’m not a huge fan of boxing. But I think the analogy is really important, because it’s about studying your opponent together doing power analysis, which is a very specific community organizing activity, figuring out who maybe are the decision makers, because that’s where you’ve got to go. But, and in that sense of persistence in resistance, where you just keep working until you wear them out. And that’s all a part of the spirituality of resistance as well. Now, I mentioned denial. We have seen this in this country, we have seen a degree of denial that is really goes beyond description. You know, 80 million people denying that the election was legitimate. a president that lied 33,000 times in the course of a four year term, half of which occurred last year. You know, we have developed a very strange and foreign relationship with the truth. And so when people deny that things are happening, we create an alternate reality. And we absolutely have seen this happen this this past year, and it’s strangely enough, still seems to be having some steam to it, even though as the months roll on a beat these conspiracy theories and fantasy assessments of our culture are being proven wrong. So you see the power of denial, and what it can do in terms of undermining good social change.
Brandon Handley 14:24
Right. And I think that that’s, you know, your your application of the spiritual resistances for social change. Is that, you know, kind of way Yes. Right. And so, let’s talk a second about how do you go from practicing kind of, I guess I’ll call it a material law. Right. I mean, I don’t know what I know, the standard law. Yeah. spiritual law. Right. I think this is an interesting, it’s an interesting shift. You know, talk a little bit about kind of the differences and how they kind of you know, how they align
for you. They’re actually aligned very easily. So when I was coming out in the late 70s and early 80s, first, I sensed a call to ordination, when I was about 15 years old. But of course, back then I wasn’t seeing a whole lot of women at the pulpit or the altar. So I decided to become an attorney because I wanted to work to help people. And so I became a civil rights attorney. But that call of the Holy Spirit never left. And in fact, started getting louder as I got older. And I got frustrated, because you can’t really argue the gospel of compassion and mercy in a court of law and expect to have a successful legal career because it doesn’t really work that way. So, you know, there’s, there’s no precedent for the gospel. So I decided to go to seminary in my late 40s, along with a lot of other women who experience the same thing because of our, you know, or our common age. And so, when you are an attorney, you read texts, sometimes you write them, you write persuasive arguments, you interpret the law, you do all those things. You do the same thing. As a priest or pastor. It’s all about reading texts, and interpreting them and preaching or teaching whatever it may be. But, and, and I, Martin Luther was a lawyer before he became a priest, I am in no way comparing myself to Martin Luther. But you know, that’s a famous example of somebody.
Brandon Handley 16:55
It’s interesting, you put it that way. And I think just as you’re saying it, you know, it’s kind of dawning on me that Yeah, exactly. Right. It’s because I think I did like all maybe three months of business law. And I was like, this is for the birds. I was like, because it’s not logical. Yes. No, there’s no real logic in it, you really have to have an understanding of a whole bunch of other pieces. Yeah, to be able to interpret it. And I was like, I don’t have time for this right now. Yeah.
To is really so subject to interpretation.
Unknown Speaker 17:29
Right? Yeah. My God, it was mind boggling. I couldn’t I couldn’t, I did. I’m sure I could have if I really cared enough to, but I didn’t.
Brandon Handley 17:38
So one of the things that we were talking about, too, was the idea of, um, you know, Christianity and and spirituality. Are they really separate? Or are they, you know, how do they How do they, you know, kind of walk hand in hand, because I hear people always separating religion from spirituality. I’m like, I don’t, you know, helped me out there.
Well, I think that’s a really interesting and excellent question. I think most religions have a component of spirituality in and of course, it’s going to vary depending on what that tradition is. Christianity is a very spiritual tradition. And in fact, you know, going back to the Old Testament, and the prophets, having conversations with God, having, you know, this direct relationship, and then seeing Jesus continue that. And as a matter of fact, often the disciples would lose track of him because he went off somewhere to pray. And we see this particularly in the Gospel of Luke, which is, I think, a very spiritual gospel. Jesus is off praying very often. And he’s helping, so he goes and prays, and then he goes, and he helps somebody. So Christianity, as a tradition, I think, is very, very spiritual. Unfortunately, and this bothers me a lot. And it’s one of the reasons that I started political theology matters, is to underscore that to look back to the Gospels of Jesus and what he did, he prayed and healed. And he challenged unjust systems, and then he healed somebody. You know? That’s not what we’re seeing in the public square right now. And Christianity is looking is melded, if you will, say to January 6, you know, there’s all these flags waving Jesus saves as people are storming the capital of the United States of America. that bothered me greatly, greatly greatly. So it’s, it’s really important that we bring this idea of spirituality back to the fore I think the American American people, I’m going to make a very broad based statement here, this is my opinion. But I think the American people are just parched for spirituality, they’re parched for reconnecting with their Creator, the divine being this, you know, whatever it is that you call it. We don’t respect that in public in society. And we should,
Brandon Handley 20:28
I’m going to, I’m going to agree with you. And I think that we’re seeing a lot of that research. And since I could, it could be, of course, that I’ve just gone through myself in the middle of all of it. And that’s the only people I talked to pretty much outside of outside of work, you know, because but the other thing is, we’re seeing it in the workplace. We’re seeing, you know, wellness, we’re seeing meditation, we’re seeing yoga, we’re seeing breathwork, we’re seeing all this other stuff show up in the workplace, you know, without calling it specifically, you know, you know, reconnecting with source or anything, right. But the surge of people that are running towards it, and embracing it. That’s, That, to me indicates that, that what you’re saying is 100% true, right? The idea of that the idea of this thirst for it, it exists right now. And of course, it always makes me think of, and I don’t know, the Bible for nothing. But you know, it makes me think of makes me think of the line of, you know, I’ve got bread that are meats that you know, not have, right, that’s the nourishment that yes, we’re seeking the spiritual nourishment and right that that, you know, will feed us to sustain us that, you know that that’s, that’s why we’re parched. Right. That’s why we’re hungry, because we haven’t been. And we’re banished.
There’s a in the fourth chapter of john, the gospel of john, there’s one of the most amazing stories in the whole Bible, and it’s when Jesus is at the well with the Samaritan woman. And he says to her, I will giving I’ll give you a living water, and you will never thirst again. And of course, she wants this water. And she’s taking him much more literally than what he’s talking about. But I think that when people and then by extension individuals and by extension of community are more tied into the spiritual, mystical, you know, part of life, I think our regard for other human beings will go up. One of the reasons I think we’re seeing these, this episode, we are in a pandemic of police shootings. And I think one of the reasons that we are seeing this is because instead of connecting spiritually, and praying and recognizing that we’re all children of God, there’s just a lot of fear and power plays. And that’s not spirituality, spirituality is getting in touch with our Creator, and by extension, the folks that we share this planet with and in creation.
Brandon Handley 23:15
And would you also say that we can eliminate some of that fear if we have some faith? And in our Creator? Of course, I would say that, yeah. You know, but it you know, it goes, it goes to the brain up all the time, it’s, you know, it’s this, this this kind of idea of let go and let God it releases a lot of these fears. Yes, right. Yeah, you can, you can look at that. And I, I put it into a bunch of different frameworks. But I think that, once you make that statement work for you, and you see in action, there is my book, salming surrender effect was the thing that you feel, and you’re like, why haven’t I’ve been doing this all my life, right? Because, you know, there’s this resistance to the institution of church and religion. I think that that’s what’s that’s what keeps a lot of people from trying to make that way forward. So, Marsha, we were down to, we’re down to kind of get into the end here. We’ve got political theology matters, right? Yeah. I want to know, a couple of questions. We’re gonna do like a couple of spiritual speed dating questions. Okay, so this is like, you know, hey, you and I are at the table. I want to date you, but I’m not quite sure if you’re the right spiritual as a line person, for me. And so you know, what’s let’s take a let’s take a couple, take a couple of these questions and see if we can come up with okay. To do what is wisdom and how do we gain it?
Well, I think wisdom basically is knowing right and wrong. I think it just boils right down to that, you know, having a moral through line in your life that guides you in terms of your thoughts and conduct and the decisions that you make. And, and we, I think we acquire this as we live longer for a reason. Because as we experience life, it helps us understand what our moral through line is, and should be even greater as we age.
Brandon Handley 25:27
Like that. You know, I was always a wise ask growing up as a kid, right. But that wasn’t the wisdom that it served.
wasn’t always asked is different than wisdom, who, you know, you
Brandon Handley 25:39
still still put the two in there? Yeah, put the two in there. I was
the wiser as to so there you go. That’s just a bit. This
Brandon Handley 25:45
is part of the journey. Right? I’m going from thinking that you know, everything to knowing that you know, nothing. Yeah. Right.
humility, that’s part of wisdom. For sure.
Brandon Handley 25:56
Yeah. Is current religion serving its purpose?
No. Tell me more? Well, yes. And no. I think we’re seeing it, I’m going to talk about Christianity, because that’s what I know, I really have no business talking about any other tradition. But Christianity has lost its way, and is much more concerned, at least certain corners of Christ’s vineyard are more concerned about power than they are about people, and about judgment, and damning people because they’re this or that, or they’re not this or that. And dictating the terms of that individual’s relationship with their Creator, which I think is crazy. And I quit doing that, we got to stop this horizontal stuff. Alright, you did this. So you’re bad, you’re going to hell, or whatever, like anybody really has the right to say that to somebody else. Our relationship needs to be like this. You know, we need to dictate a relationship with our Creator, or we need to craft it and follow our tradition, and our Creator, and not let society get in between. And I think that’s really bad. I think that’s where Christianity is failing. The most. Are there any
Brandon Handley 27:27
churches, groups, communities and Christianity that you feel like are doing it right, right now?
Well, of course, I would have to put in a plug for the Episcopal Church. I am a priest ordained in the Episcopal Church. And I’m, I’m a lesbian. So I didn’t have a lot of choices outside of mainstream Protestantism, to become ordained. But I’m still really glad that I’m where I am. Because we have an incarnational theology, which means that God chose to send Jesus to walk the earth with us to understand our lives and to understand what we go through, in order to reach out to us and invite us into the reign of God. And so I, that really works for me, we are very inclusive, we are dating, obviously, we are dating LGBT people. As a matter of fact, we specifically passed a, you know, a resolution a few years ago at our general convention to ordain trans people. So we’re on the cutting edge of the LGBTQ issues. But we’re also very active in lobbying for greater social justice. reconciliation, racial reconciliation, climate care, you name it, and we are involved on the progressive and of Christianity, and I’m very proud of that. I wouldn’t be an Episcopal priest if I was a
Brandon Handley 29:01
class. Fantastic. And you know, it’s it’s great to hear, you know, called sex they called branches. I don’t know what they’re called. denominations. That’s what they are. Right?
Yes. denominations. And several that are in company with us. It’s not just us, but
Brandon Handley 29:16
right right now, but it’s great to hear that. There’s this kind of release of judgment. Right. Yeah. And there’s this acceptance of calm as you are, right? Because, I mean, that’s kind of what it’s supposed to be about. Right? Come as you are, you’re accepted no matter who, what, where you are, right, what you’ve done. who, you know, you feel like you’ve wronged I mean, you know, as a parent myself, right. And I can only imagine like, as you know, you know, you know, God, Jesus, whoever, whoever, you know, the creator is that’s our eternal parent, you know, doesn’t want us to, like, you know, sit their misery over the fact that I don’t know yeah, you know, if you Have cause an accident, like by running into a car like that. That doesn’t mean you’re damned to hell, you know? Like, hey, you made a pretty shitty mistake, right? But go ahead and come on in, we’re gonna we’re gonna work through this right? Let’s talk about this. Let’s know, let’s, where can we go from here,
there’s, in my opinion, way too much emphasis on being strictly sinful create creatures of constant failure. And, you know, disappointment. God created us, we’re told, because God didn’t want to be alone and wanted to be with us in community. And Jesus was all about community. And I think that we have to remember that we are also children, a God created in God’s image. And so what we can do then is stop focusing so much on how faulty we are all the time. Recognize that we are children of God, but also recognize that Jesus created avenues for us to seek and receive forgiveness so that we could stay in relationship with God. And that’s just incredibly important with that.
Brandon Handley 31:08
I mean, I’ve heard some people call that the way, right there’s like, Yeah, right. Yeah. So, so, so much fun to have you on today. Thanks for thanks for stopping on. Really appreciate it much.
Yeah. Appreciate it. Where can people go to have more Marsha?
Okay, so my website is called political theology. matters.com. I know that’s kind of long. We’ll put it in the show notes. You can email me at Marsha m AR c IA at MMI. PTM. PTM for political theology. matters.com. So that’s the shortened version. Marsha, at my PTM calm. Thank you so much for being on today. And oh, more. Would you like me to send you info when the book drops? Absolutely, absolutely. So yeah, you’ve
Brandon Handley 32:01
got you’ve got a book coming out. You’re working on it. And you’re expected to come out this year?
Yeah, at the end of next the end of this year. And I’ll be sure that Brandon knows when it is. And you can get more information. It’s about it’s a book about how to do faith based advocacy for social justice.
Brandon Handley 32:19
That’s great. And I love it. Thank you so much for being on today. Marsha, my pleasure.
Thank you, Brandon.
Unknown Speaker 32:23
We really hope you enjoyed this episode of the spiritual dove podcast. stay connected with us directly through spiritual dove co You can also join the discussion on Facebook, spiritual and Instagram and spiritual underscore go. If you would like to speak with us, send us an email there Brendan at spiritual dove calm. And as always, thank you for cultivating your mindset and creating a better reality. This includes the most thought provoking part of your day. Don’t forget to like and subscribe to stay fully up to date. Until next time, make on your zone and trust your intuition.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai