A Review Of Ruth Rieder Harvey's
"Marble Palaces Or Painted Barns"

by Lois E. Gibson

Marble Palaces Or Painted Barns

Introduction

Ruth Harvey, formerly Ruth Rieder, wrote a series of books for children. These were based upon her first two adult books on standards. (Power Before The Throne & Reflecting The Glory) Wes Comer illustrated them, having been recommended to Ruth by UPC minister O.C. Marler. Wes has illustrated other books, including Marler's. He was a guest on our private online support group board in the past.

Six Children's Books

Ruth Rieder Harvey started with a series of four children's books aimed at ages five through nine. These books teach standards which are taught in many UPC and other Apostolic churches. Later she added two additional books to the series. Each of these books have a quiz as well as one or more Bible passages for memorization.

In these books, Ruth uses her children, Miriam and Angel Rieder, for the characters and included their cat, Ashes. I believe at least one story in her books, about their paternal grandmother giving a gift of pearls, is based on an actual incident.

In the first four stories, Ruth and her girls are always pictured in skirts or dresses almost to the floor, long sleeves, and a lot of hair on their heads. The illustrator, Wes Comer, did not receive any instruction from Ruth on how to draw the characters. Back in 2004, when he was a guest on our online private support group board, he shared that he "decided to ere on the side of caution" in how he drew the characters, "knowing that there are those who dress in long sleeves and long skirts only." This changed with the last two children's books after Wes saw a picture of the Rieder family.

The first book is "Angels Watching Over Me," which starts by talking about the armor of God. It goes on to teach children that "we do not cut our hair because God's Word commands the woman to have long hair" and that her obedience brings protection. Males are to have short hair "because they represent God and are supposed to look like Him." Ruth tells Miriam, when she says that boys with long hair look funny and it makes her laugh, that God made her feel that way.

The second is "Kingdom Clothing" which teaches that women should not wear pants. They should always choose skirts "that are long enough to cover your body" and that God didn't want men and women to dress the same way. In explaining what abomination means, the mother describes it as "something extremely disgusting to God and makes Him feel very sick, almost like throwing up," causing God's stomach and heart to hurt and for Him to feel sad. The signs on the bathroom doors are used to show that people really know how they are supposed to dress.

The third is "Marble Palaces or Painted Barns" which tackles the issue of make-up. Miriam receives some make-up as a present and mother tells her, "You don't need that make-up set because God made you perfect in every way." We hurt God's feelings when we use make up, and lipstick and fingernail polish are termed "ugly paint." We should want to be marble palaces and not painted barns.

"God's Jewels" is the fourth in the series and covers jewelry. Grandma Rieder gave a pearl necklace as a gift. Mom tells a story about how Lucifer was covered with various jewels and became prideful, turned into the devil, and fell. This is why God commands us not to wear gold or pearls. "Jewelry draws attention to us instead of to God. This can cause us to turn proud and disobey God just like Lucifer."

The last two books are "Adorned for the King" and "The Enclosed Garden." The former teaches girls the type clothing to wear, while the latter addresses moral purity and includes a purity promise card.

In her books, Ruth writes, "My humble desire is that somehow these writings would establish and anchor the truth of holiness within the hearts and minds of the younger generation. ...In a day of non-commitment and trashing of godly values may they "Buy the truth and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding." (Proverbs 23:23)"

The question remains: Do these books teach the truth concerning standards?

Marble Palaces or Painted Barns

This is book three of the series and features Ruth's daughter, Miriam Rieder. This is interesting, because as a young adult years after this was first published, Miriam has chosen to wear make-up, at least in things pertaining to her business. I realize that some do not like my mention of Miriam, but Ruth herself brought her family into it in a personal way through her writings, using her daughters, with their real names, as the stars of her children's books.

The mention actually applies to Ruth rather than her daughter. Ruth has made some very pointed statements about make-up in her books as well as her messages in churches. I have to wonder if she would now apply the same statements about make-up to her daughter. Would she say that her daughter has a face of deception because she wears make-up? (From Reflecting The Glory.) Or would it be different because it is her daughter? Would it be rationalized that it is for her business? Perhaps Miriam will teach her mother that a Christian can indeed wear make-up and not cause God sorrow or be sinning. Many times women in groups that emphasize standards, stop to reconsider if the teachings are true when it comes to their own children. For some, it has been one thing to adhere to the teachings themselves, but yet another to force their children to do so. This alone has sent women searching the scriptures to see if these outward standards are truly found in the Bible.

We discover it's Miriam's birthday and the family is going to have a party for her. The kids from church have been invited, as well as some from school. After making Miriam's favorite pancakes for breakfast, they spend the morning making the cake, punch and sandwiches for the party and decorating the house.

The party was like any other as they played games, ate and Miriam opened her many gifts. One of the school friends, who obviously didn't know the beliefs of the family, gave her a toy make-up set, complete with lipstick and nail polish. Miriam "quickly set it with the other gifts." We only hope that this was not noticed by the gift giver or their parents if they attended. The illustration for this part of the book shows several gifts, with items from the make-up set in the middle, highlighted in yellow and orange.

After everyone leaves, mom initiates another look at all the presents. One by one, Miriam shows them to her. When she comes to the make-up set, Miriam says that she doesn't think she would be able to use it. It is then that Miriam is taught that she does not need make-up, "because God made you perfect in every way," choosing the color of her "hair, eyes, skin, and mouth." Miriam is God's "masterpiece."

Having given her an art set, Ruth asks how Miriam would feel if she drew all over the pictures Miriam painted for her. Miriam responds that she would be hurt and think that her mom didn't like them. Mom then explains that this is how God feels when we paint ourselves (referring to using any make-up).

Ruth continues to teach that Miriam wouldn't paint Ashes or any other animals and that we wouldn't paint trees or flowers, either. It is said they are pretty just the way God made them. Ruth then attempts to make this seem biblical by talking about Isaiah 61:3 and Psalm 144:12, likening us to trees and plants. "We do not paint living things like animals, trees, plants, or boys and girls."

The thought is pressed further by saying that Psalms mentions girls are like a pretty marble palace and we wouldn't cover such with "cheap red paint" as it would hide the beauty. "And when we use fingernail polish and lipstick, we cover God's beauty with ugly paint." Only old barns need repeated coats of red paint.

After mom leaves the room, Miriam tells Ashes that they are special. "We don't have to paint ourselves because we are God's masterpieces. He made us like marble palaces, not painted barns!"

The scripture given at the back of the book is Psalm 144:12. The memorization verses are Psalm 119:73, 139:14, 144:12, Proverbs 23:23, 2 Timothy 3:15 & Isaiah 61:3. Some of the questions asked in the quiz area are:

How does God feel when we paint our bodies?
What are we doing when we use fingernail polish and lipstick?
Are you an old barn that always needs another coat of red paint?

This book is problematic as the author does not share one Bible passage that states how God feels when a person uses make-up. She fails to provide any scriptural backing, linking make-up use to barn painting. No scripture is used to show that since we don't paint trees, animals or flowers, that God is against the use of make-up.

Psalm 144:12

Let us look at Psalm 144:12, as well as taking into consideration the entire Psalm. Ruth Harvey states on page 22 that it says "our sons are like plants" and on page 23 that it says Miriam is "like a beautiful marble palace." However, it does not state either. In addition, this is David's thoughts and not God proclaiming something. In the KJV, which Ruth quotes, it says, "That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace". Do you see the differences?

Ruth says, "our sons are like plants," but the Psalm says, "That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth."

Ruth says, "you are like a beautiful marble palace," but the Psalm says, "that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace".

Ruth does not properly convey what this verse states. In addition, these are the longing and prayer of David and not God's words about us. Yet, even if the verse said what Ruth stated, it in no way addresses the matter of make-up.

Compared to Animals, Plants & Trees

There is a very basic flaw in comparing the thought of not painting trees, plants and animals, with it being wrong for people to ever wear make-up. Ruth uses three pages to instill this thought into children and it is further emphasized by using it for questions at the end of the book.

Can we as people really compare ourselves to trees, plants and animals and then claim that if we don't do something to those three, that we should not do it to ourselves? There are many things we do to ourselves that we would not do to animals, trees or plants. We dress ourselves in clothing, but do not do so with the other, with a couple temporary exceptions for animals. We correct our eyesight if it is not 20/20, but do not do so for animals. If we have a hearing problem, we can use a hearing aid, but do not do so for animals. Perhaps that would be because, despite what Ruth teaches, God has not made everyone "perfect in every way."

If a person becomes ill, we will seek medical help, even hospitalizing them and performing surgery if needed. With trees and plants, we do not do this. We may try and save them somehow if we can, but we do not resort to such care as we give ourselves. For animals, some will take them to veterinarians and some will even hospitalize them and perform surgery. But few would go to the same expense that they would a person. Some would just shoot the animal and not attempt to help it. So if we don't do the same for animals, plants and trees in this area, should we treat people in the same manner?

Can you see how the line of thinking is faulty? Why should one even need to attempt to make a Bible verse say we are like trees, plants and palaces in order to teach that God says it is wrong to wear make-up? Should there not be at least one scripture somewhere in the entire Bible that plainly states, "You should not wear make-up"? It is certainly not something that only pertains to our day and age, as many will quickly remind you that Jezebel in the Old Testament used it.

Where Does This Leave Us?

One would hope that some of the other passages Ruth Harvey shared will show the teaching. But, alas, they do not. They speak about understanding, buying the truth and not selling it, that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, that to those who mourn in Zion that they might be called trees of righteousness (among other things), and that knowing the scriptures can make one wise. She fails to provide even one verse that shows wearing make-up is wrong or that God's feelings are hurt and he will feel as if you don't like how he made you, should you wear make-up.

If we are to teach that the Bible and God say something like make-up is wrong, then we should be able to provide scripture that very clearly shows this. "Thou shalt not steal," "Thou shalt not kill," "Thou shalt not commit adultery" - God makes these and more very plain. They are not read in between the lines, we don't have to pull passages out of context, and we don't have to re-word anything to make it seem like God doesn't want us to steal, kill or commit adultery.

Had Ruth written a book that simply stated her beliefs, or those of the UPC, without attempting to say that God disapproves or commands us not to do something, then while I would be in disagreement, I would not be able to fault her. Anyone is free to believe what they want. If you wish to believe that make-up is wrong for you to wear, I have no problem with it. I truly do not care if a person does or does not wear make-up. Yet when you say that the Bible teaches against it and a person causes God angst if it is done, then I want to see where the Bible states what you are proclaiming. I do not wish to see a misrepresentation of scripture, or your opinions, or comparisons between me and animals, plants and trees....or barns.

Unfortunately, this is what she teaches in her books, that these standards are from God and that God is upset when we use make-up because he made us perfect. When Ruth asks Miriam how she would feel if she drew all over the pictures she painted for her, she tells Miriam that her response is just how God feels "when we paint our bodies." There is no mistaking that Ruth is teaching that this standard is God ordained.

Yet even with this comparison, it is flawed. When a person applies make-up, they don't paint "all over" their bodies. I have never known anyone who did this. Instead, the person uses it in specific ways, such as applying some color to the lips or nails. They do not take the lipstick and smear it all over their face, arms, legs, chest, and back. They are not saying to God that they do not like how he made them. They are not looking at themselves as an "old barn that always needs another coat of red paint."

I would not recommend that anyone use this book to teach their children about make-up, even if they believe it is wrong. It is flawed in too many ways and completely fails to show through the Bible how God views the issue.

This book can be seen in a PDF format here.

For further information and additional reviews of her books, go here.

Ruth Harvey no longer sells copies of the first four of these books on her website, but the last two are yet available.


You may write Lois at the email address displayed in the image. No correspondence that seeks to debate will be answered as I have no desire to debate. Understand that due to the volume of mail, not every email may be acknowledged.
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Posted May 19, 2014 & Updated May 25, 2014

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