First, I will tackle the issue of magic and Christianity's prohibition of association therewith. In the first century, greco-roman magic consisted mainly of three-part spells. The vast majority of these spells were used for influencing one's love or sexual life life, bettering one's business/investment ventures, or generally protecting and promoting one's personal interests. "Magic" was most often used, in the Greco-Roman world, to cast love spells. These were usually spells to bring some particular love interest under your power. Often times, they were used in conjunction with a curse against any competitors. For instance, "Bob Roman" loves Betty the Greek. But Betty is married to John the Greek. So Bob would recite a spell to induce Betty to love him and recite another spell to invoke harm upon John. Similar spells could be devised to help Bob in his business or investing ventures.
Greco-Roman magical spells were three-part. The first part was an invocation of some god, goddess, or spiritual being (often called a "daemon" or "demon"). The supernatural being invoked would be the entity that would bring the power to the equation. The second part would be the request for action. "Make Betty love me and no other and be compelled to come to me and stay with me." This would be followed once again with a final plea to the invoked power to grant the request and empower the spell. Without a doubt, the problem for Christians here is not the supernatural aspects of magic. God has acted throughout history in ways that the uninformed would call magic. The true problem with Greco-Roman magic is in the invocation of gods, goddesses, and/or demons. This sets up a position that there is some power other than that of God (of the Bible). While there are no other gods apart from the God of the Bible, there are spirits and demons (fallen angels). The admonition against the practice of magic is that humans practicing magic are dabbling in the spiritual (or demonic) realm, of which humans know almost nothing. God is trying to protect us from our ignorance in this area.
The magic of Harry Potter is of a type seen in fairy tales. Harry utters some spell -- consisting of some words in Latin (or, in many cases, very bad Latin) or a similar language -- and POOF! something happens. There is no invocation of "higher powers" or spirits or demons. I liken it to Cinderella and similar fairy tales. The magical personage -- Harry -- casts a spell and, by some unexplained magical force, it happens. So in thearea of magic, Harry Potter is merely a modern fairy tale about the age-old struggole between good and evil.
As regards the morality of Harry Potter. I have not found a Christian-based morality within the Harry Potter series. Nor is it particularly deist. I would have to characterize it as a secular moral system. I do this simply because none of the characters claim their system of morals hails from God or a "higher power." But I find nothing that is troublesome from a Christian morals point of view. Harry, and some of the other characters, show a tendency towards wanting revenge for perceived wrongs. But this is not inconsistent with the typical behavior of children. In fact, Harry has shown a great deal of restraint in such cases and has even shown a great deal of grace in some instances (i.e., not taking vengeance against Peter Pettigrew in "Prisoner of Azkaban").
For Christians with children, I would allow their children to read the Harry Potter series. But, as with anything, the parent must be present in every aspect of a child's life. This means that the parents must talk to their children about what the children are reading, watching on TV or in movies, learning in school, how they are interacting with other children. The short of it is that parents are responsible before God for their children until they are old enough to make a decision on their own to believe in God and follow Jesus as Lord. Parents must prepare children both for service to the Lord and to live in a fallen world.
Once again, I think, in the end, that the Harry Potter series is a modern fairy tale. I think it merely offers the tales of Harry and his friends in the age old fight of good against evil. As always, your comments are welcome.
I just received an e-mail from Mark D. Roberts. He gives a general head-nod and referred me to an article he wrote ("Hoodwinked by Harry") for the Fuller Theological Seminary's publication Theology, News and Notes. Check it out. As soon as I have read this article, I will post more.