Why can’t Mennonites have rubber tires (why do Mennonites prefer steel tires)?

As a theologian and farmer, I take an interest in the agricultural practices of different religious groups. I was especially intrigued by the Mennonites after discovering that they have uniquely made tractors that don’t use rubber tires. Since I was already in the US, I decided to go to Pennsylvania and visit their farmlands to learn more about the tires they use on their tractors. Last week, one of my online Christian forum members asked why the Mennonite tractors look pretty different from others. Another one asked why the Mennonites prefer steel tires. Having lived among them, I had the right answers at my fingertips. So, why can’t Mennonites have rubber tires?

The Mennonites believe that using rubber tires leads to vanity, and they feel that these tires would encourage their members to use their tractors on roads and eventually lead to the use of cars. The Mennonites that prefer steel tires on their tractors have not yet embraced modern vehicles. They also do not use rubber tires to avoid their cushioning effect, and they suggest that they are harder to pull than steel tires. They prefer steel tires since they are more durable and do not get punctured easily like rubber ones. Repairing steel tires is also considered a breeze.

In this article, I invite you to join me as we delve into why Mennonites have rubber tires. Keep reading to find out why the Mennonites prefer steel tires, whether steel tires are legal, and much more!

Reasons why Mennonites prefer steel tires?

Why can’t Mennonites have rubber tires?
Reasons why Mennonites prefer steel tires? Image source: Freepik

Old Order Mennonite churches forbid their members from using rubber tires. They believe that their driving tractors should only have tires made of steel to avoid vanity. They derive this rule from the Biblical passage that warns us not to conform to the things of this world in Romans 12:2.

These Mennonites have been equipping steel cleats in their tractors for over 4 decades. They use steel tires for small-scale farming to discourage tractors from being used for pleasure purposes like regular transportation. The practice of fitting steel wheels on farm machinery is a religious regulation practiced by the baptized members of Old Order Mennonite churches. A member that disobeys this rule can face excommunication. The Mennonites that do not use cars are the ones that have embraced this practice.

They reveal that they prefer steel tires since they fear that if the tractors were made with rubber tires, people would use them on the road and eventually feel the need to use regular cars. They try to avoid the cushioning effect of rubber tires to discourage the use of automobiles in their groups. The Mennonites believe that this would compromise their values and lead to separation in the community. The Mennonites have a strong sense of community.

Additionally, the Mennonites prefer steel tires since they find them easier to pull than rubber tires, and they do not get punctured. Therefore, steel tires are more durable and can get repaired easily through welding. This religious group also prefers steel tires since they prevent soil compaction. They argue that using other material on tractor wheels causes soil compaction and makes the soil lose its nutrients. However, steel tires protect the topsoil. Since Mennonites focus more on practicality than looks, they do not mind how steel tires look on their tractors.

Are Mennonite steel wheels damaging to the road?

Why can’t Mennonites have rubber tires?
Are Mennonite steel wheels damaging to the road? Image source: Pixabay

According to Mennonites, using steel wheels is uncomfortable on the roads and could cause damage. For instance, they can lead to soil erosion. Some suggest that steel wheels should only be used on farms, not the road since they destroy the rainforest. These tires are also revealed to take the paint off white-topped roads and crack pavements.

Steel tires damage the roads since they are harder than some elements used to make the road surface. Some Mennonites try to reduce road damage by making the steel cleats wider and mounting rubber belts to offer extra cushioning.

Some people who live near Mennonites also reveal that steel-wheeled farm machinery presents a safety hazard when used on the road. For instance, one resident of Lancaster County once reported that a steel-wheeled tractor crashed in the rain after the driver could not stop it on a wet road.

Are Mennonites steel wheels legal?

The Mennonites’ steel wheels are not illegal in many regions since some officials do not object to their use. However, the damage these tires cause has led to issues between the local authorities and the Mennonites in other regions. In some cases, some Mennonites sign an agreement with the local authorities and set aside a fund to cover the road damage caused by steel tires. In other cases, the issue ends up in court.

Though the Mennonites do not encourage their members to use tractors on the roads, some still do this to haul their farm produce to the market. A report reveals that in 2009, Mitchell Country spent $9 million to resurface several roads damaged by steel tires. Following this, they set a rule preventing the Mennonites from driving over roads using tractors fitted with steel tires. Anyone violating this rule would pay a fine of $300 or go to jail for at least 30 days.

After this rule was set, the Mennonites, who encouraged their communities to use steel tires, complained since they felt it violated their religious freedom. They felt that they were misunderstood and criticized by the rest of the world that has embraced modern technology.

Though the legality of Mennonite steel tires has been debated for many years, most local governments have found a balance between the use of public roads and religious freedom.

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