Blogger's Note: Since this blog is somewhat Amishcentric, I get questions from time to time from readers about Amish life and culture, which I refer to my Aunt Tillie, an opinionated, but humble Amish woman. Here is a recent question and answer. Please leave a comment or email me if you have questions you want me to refer to her in the future.
Dear Aunt Tillie:
Driving through the Amish community the other day, I saw lots of Amish people out riding bicycles. Is that really allowed, or were the bicycle riders doing their rumspringa, like I saw an ABC?
I don't know what ABC said about "rumspringa" (we Amish don't have television.) "Rumspringa" literally means "running around," in Pennsylvania Dutch, so the bicycle riders might have been running around doing errands. But they usually don't have television shows about Amish doing errands (or at least so I assume, not being an expert on television shows.) So, you're probably asking about the other type of rumspringa which is when teenagers who are not yet church members have a little of what they consider fun by drinking beer, and dancing and smoking (and maybe engage in a little premarital sex.) But I digress, as I tend to do so often these days, you want to know whether it is allowed for Amish to ride bicycles. Well, of course we can ride bicycles. The Bible does not say, "Thou shalt not ride a bicycle." (Ha, ha, that's a joke, we Amish don't believe that everything we can't do is literally forbidden by the Bible. It would take a lot bigger book than the Bible to include everything we can't do.)
I've never ridden a bicycle, although I tried once many years ago when Ezra and the children were away. Our youngest daughter, Sovilla, had a bicycle that she stored in the barn and riding it didn't look that hard, so I got it out and tried to make it go, but it fell over and I got one foot caught underneath and one foot was waving around up in the air rather immodestly, so I just figured if God had wanted me to learn to ride a bicycle, he would have taught me long before then. That was about 40 years ago, and I've never had the urge to ride again.
So why are bicycles allowed but cars forbidden? I don't know the answer to that one. That's just the way it has always been. Maybe it's because cars go faster and you can drive further in a car than on a bicycle, so there's more of a temptation to use a car to get out of the Amish community and go see what the English are doing. But some of these modern bicycles can go pretty fast and far. Some of the Amish boys have been taking road trips on their bicycles, all the way over to the Mississippi River, and they're just doing that for fun, so I don't know. Idleness is the devil's work shop, they say, and maybe there's some devilment those boys could get into in a car that they couldn't on a bicycle, but I've never heard that as an explanation for why bicycles are allowed but cars aren't. I just hope those Amish boys don't start wearing that Velcro clothing, or whatever they call, that the English stuff their bodies into that shows all their bulges. That looks pretty awful, but somehow the English think you have to look funny to ride a bicycle, I guess. We Amish probably look funny enough already without having to start wearing Velcro pants, but to each his own.
(Signed) Aunt Tillie